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White House Repeats Calls For Pakistan's Musharraf to Lift Emergency Rule


The White House says free and fair elections can not take place in Pakistan while the country is under emergency rule. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the United States is continuing to urge Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to lift the state of emergency he put in place November 3.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the Bush administration's stand has not changed - and General Musharraf's vow to hold elections, while welcome, is not enough.

"We do not see how it is possible to have free and fair elections under emergency rule," said Perino. "You want to have emergency rule lifted so that people could protest peacefully or that they could campaign and so that a free media can cover the election as we do here."

During a session with reporters, Perino stressed the importance of continued U.S. engagement with all parties in Pakistan. She reiterated they must work together to get the country back on the path to democracy as soon as possible.

"We want to have a long-term relationship with this country," said Perino. "In the past we have waffled on that and it has not served us well. We lost contact with an entire generation of Pakistani military leaders."

"We need to get back in the business of making sure that we do not just walk away from a country because they made a mistake. We need to help work with them to unite moderate forces so that they can have the democracy that they started to have over the last several years," she added.

Perino was then asked about the break down in negotiations between General Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who has called for his resignation.

The White House spokeswoman acknowledged tensions are high in Pakistan, but emphasized the situation remains very fluid.

"We understand that when they have feelings that people express them and we would hope that people would be able to work together in Pakistan," she said. "We will just have to wait and see. The situation on the ground is evolving very rapidly."

Perino said there is a real need for all factions to establish open lines of dialogue, enabling the country to return to constitutional rule. The White House spokeswoman said what the United States wants to see in Pakistan - a central ally in the war on terror - is moderation, democracy, stability and the prosperity that comes with it.

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