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Pakistani Officials - President Musharraf Told Negroponte Emergency Rule Needed for Elections


Pakistani officials say President Pervez Musharraf has told U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte that emergency rule is needed to hold the country's parliamentary elections in a peaceful atmosphere.

Negroponte, the most senior U.S. official to visit Pakistan since emergency rule began two weeks ago, held more than two hours of talks with General Musharraf in Islamabad Saturday.

There has been no immediate comment about the meeting from U.S. officials. Negroponte was expected to press General Musharraf to lift emergency rule and guarantee democratic elections expected by early January.

Meanwhile, a leading Pakistani media outlet says the government has forced it to end international broadcasts, after earlier shutting down domestic broadcasts.

The president Imran Aslam of Geo television told VOA the network will not sign a new broadcast contract, because he says it allows officials to enter television offices at will, seize equipment and arrest employees.

The new crackdown on independent media took place as Negroponte met with General Musharraf.

Pakistani officials say the army's deputy chief, General Asfaq Kayani, also attended the meeting. He is widely expected to take over as military chief, when General Musharraf quits that post and starts his second term as president.

Negroponte is also expected to hold talks with senior officials from Pakistan's foreign ministry later Saturday.

Meanwhile, General Musharraf swore in a new interim Cabinet Friday, with Senate Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro leading the caretaker government that will oversee parliamentary elections.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was released from house arrest early Friday, says she does not recognize the interim administration, nor does she accept that free and fair elections can be held under the current state of emergency.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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