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Ex-PM Sharif to Return to Pakistan Next Month to Run Against Musharraf


Exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he will return to Pakistan on September 10 to challenge President Pervez Musharraf's re-election bid.

During a news conference Thursday in London, Mr. Sharif said General Musharraf's "uniform is not the issue." Responding to rumors that the president may relinquish his military post, Mr. Sharif said the real issue is what he called General Musharraf's "illegitimate rule."

The statements follow claims from another exiled former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, that General Musharraf has agreed to step down as army chief as part of a proposed power-sharing deal.

Earlier Thursday, a spokesman for General Musharraf, Rashid Qureshi, said the president rejects any pressure to step down as army chief.

Mr. Sharif said Thursday there is no need to cut a deal with General Musharraf.

On Wednesday, Ms. Bhutto said she expected the president to quit his military post before presidential elections later this year. She also called for a firm commitment from him within the next few days.

A Pakistani Cabinet minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told reporters Wednesday that a deal between General Musharraf and the former prime minister is 80 percent complete.

Mr. Sharif has condemned the proposed deal and accused Ms. Bhutto of strengthening dictatorship in Pakistan.

The former prime minister was ousted by General Musharraf in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison for charges including corruption and treason. A deal with the government allowed him to go into exile in Saudi Arabia in 2000. Last week, a Supreme Court ruling authorized Mr. Sharif's return.

But the Pakistani government says Mr. Sharif is bound not to return to the country for 10 years under the pledge allowing him to leave prison and go into exile.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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