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US Calls for Quick Return to Constitutional Rule in Pakistan


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is criticizing the imposition of martial law by Pakistan's ruler General Pervez Musharraf. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, Rice says she has not spoken with General Musharraf, but that she is closely monitoring the situation.

In brief remarks to reporters at the start of two days of Mideast diplomacy in Jerusalem, Secretary Rice said the Bush administration does not support General Musharraf's declaration of a state of emergency in Pakistan.

"I just want to repeat that of course the United States does not support and, communicated to the Pakistani leadership prior to this action, that it would not support, extra-constitional means," she said.

Secretary Rice says General Musharraf, who earlier had pledged to step aside as Pakistan's military leader, and become a civilian President, should return Pakistan to constitutional rule as soon as possible.

"I think the issue now is, it is in the best interests of Pakistan and the best interests of the Pakistani people for there to be a prompt return to the constitutional course, for there to be affirmation that elections will be held for a new parliament, and for all parties to act with restraint in what is obviously a very difficult situation," added Rice.

Rice's comments echoed those of other world leaders. A statement by Britain's Foreign Secretary said Pakistan's future rests on its ability to use the power of democracy and the rule of law to achieve its goals of stability, development and countering terrorism.

The 53-nation Commonwealth, made of Britain and its former colonies, called General Musharraf's decision a step in the wrong direction.

Pakistan's neighbor, India, also called for a return to normalcy saying it regretted the difficult times Pakistan is passing through.

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