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Musharraf Promises to Back New Pakistan Coalition


Pakistan, in the midst of an attempt to form a new government, will see the parliament convened within two weeks. President Pervez Musharraf says he will call the national and provincial assemblies together and he is pledging to support the new government that will be formed by lawmakers. VOA correspondent Steve Herman has details from Islamabad.

Under fire since the February 18 election for not calling parliament into session, President Pervez Musharraf on Friday announced that lawmakers are to convene here in a week or two. And the embattled leader promised there would be no hurdles put in their way as they try to form a new coalition government.

The former general, speaking in Sindh province, praised the forces of moderation for triumphing in last month's elections. The president, whose fate after parliament convenes is a matter of intense speculation, is pledging to back the next government. Musharraf says if peace is maintained he will fully support the incoming government.

Just who will head that government still remains unclear.

The Pakistan Peoples Party, known as the PPP, has not yet announced whom it will nominate for prime minister. The party of the assassinated Benazir Bhutto was the best performer in the February 18 election and is negotiating with the runner-up - the party led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on the lineup for the new government. Together they are expected to have enough power to form a coalition.

A third party, which backed Musharraf, is projected to control only about 15 percent of the seats in the National Assembly.

Sharif's party has vowed to remove Musharraf as the country's president, either by getting him to resign or starting impeachment procedures.

The PPP has expressed a more moderate view regarding Musharraf's fate. The president, last November, gave up his powerful post as Army chief. Musharraf came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, ousting Sharif, then prime minister.

In the run-up to the latest election, Sharif, a longtime bitter adversary of Bhutto, also a former prime minister, had begun working with her to try to force Musharraf from office. Bhutto was assassinated in a suicide attack following a campaign rally in Rawalpindi on December 27.

Since then a string of suicide bombings have rocked Pakistan, further putting pressure on the politicians to quickly establish a stable government.

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