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US Calls State of Emergency in Pakistan 'Regrettable'


The United States says the imposition of the state of emergency in Pakistan is a setback for democracy in the south Asian nation. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from Istanbul.

Speaking to the American TV news network CNN in Istanbul, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described as "highly regrettable" the decision by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to declare a state of emergency. Rice urged restraint on all sides and a quick return to democracy.

Rice was in Istanbul, where she attended an international conference on stability in Iraq.

President Musharraf imposed a state of emergency Saturday, just as the country's supreme court was to decide the constitutionality of his re-election in early October. He suspended the constitution and deployed troops throughout the capital, Islamabad.

The government blocked transmissions of private news channels in several cities, and cut telephone services in Islamabad. It issued a new press ordinance banning coverage of terrorist bombings and criticism of Mr. Musharraf.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement that a state of emergency would be a sharp setback for Pakistani democracy. He said the U.S. expects President Musharraf to live up to his promises to step down as Army Chief of Staff before beginning his second term of office and to hold elections by January 15. The State Department urged all parties to work toward democracy, civilian rule and to counter violence and extremism.

At the same time, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed great concern about developments in Pakistan. In a statement, Miliband said Pakistan's future rests on harnessing the power of democracy and the rule of law.

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