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Lieberman Says Pakistan Must Hold Fair Elections


Visiting Senator Joseph Lieberman from Connecticut has said the international community will not accept a failure by the Pakistani government to make the upcoming parliamentary elections fair and warned the U.S. Congress will take an unspecified action against Pakistan. From Islamabad, Ayaz Gul reports for VOA.

Senator Joseph Lieberman held meetings with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, senior government officials and opposition politicians in Islamabad to discuss several issues, including parliamentary elections rescheduled for February 18, following the killing of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

The U.S. lawmaker's meetings took place amid growing speculation in Pakistan that the government might further delay the polls originally set for January 8.

Speaking to reporters after his meetings, Lieberman said President Musharraf has assured him the elections will take place as scheduled, but he acknowledged opposition parties have little trust the polls will be fair.

"If there are some bases after the elections for concluding that they were not fair and credible, the consequences, I fear here in Pakistan, will be more division and not the unity that the country needs at this critical moment in its history, facing a serious external threat, now increasing, from al-Qaida," said Senator Lieberman.

Senator Lieberman also warned that flawed elections will also have an adverse impact on relations between the United States and Pakistan.

"There, undoubtedly, will be movements in Congress to not only express that, but to take some actions against Pakistan," he said. "That will be an awful result, because the strength of our relationship is critical to the security and freedom of the future of the people of Pakistan and the people of the United States of America."

Lieberman says in his talks with Pakistani officials, he also raised U.S. concerns that Pakistani nuclear weapons may fall in to the hands of Islamic extremists. He says Pakistani officials overseeing the nuclear weapons have assured him they have taken sufficient safeguards.

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