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US Vows Continued Support for Pakistan Following Musharraf Resignation

The United States has voiced appreciation for former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's commitment to fighting terrorism, just hours after Mr. Musharraf's announcement that he has resigned. Analysts say the Pakistani leader's resignation could improve the country's relationship with the United States and renew efforts to fight extremists in South Asia. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has more in this background report from Washington.

President Musharraf's resignation follows calls from Pakistan's two ruling coalition parties for his impeachment and brings to a close his nine years in power that began with a bloodless coup in 1999.

The decision ends a lengthy and important relationship with the United States, which supported Mr. Musharraf as a strong ally in the war on terrorism.

In return, the Pakistani leader deployed tens of thousands of troops to pursue Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents in the troubled tribal areas along the rugged border with Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe praised Mr. Musharraf and said the United States will continue to work with his political opponents, who soundly defeated supporters of the former president in parliamentary elections earlier this year.

"President Bush appreciates President Musharraf's efforts in the democratic transition of Pakistan, as well as his commitment to fighting al-Qaida and extremist groups," said Gordon Johndroe. "President Bush looks forward to working with the government of Pakistan on the economic, political and security challenges that they face."

During most of his rule, Mr. Musharraf maintained a tight grip on power, but a decision to fire dozens of judges and declare emergency rule last November ignited violent protests across the country and cost the president much of his public support.

Former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Karl Inderfurth, says Mr. Musharraf's resignation should improve relations between Pakistan and the United States.

"The decision by President Musharraf will now open up the possibility for the new government to act more decisively on issues facing it and I think that will allow the United States to work in closer cooperation in the weeks ahead," said Karl Inderfurth.

Mr. Musharraf's departure could prompt a new period of instability in Pakistan, a country of 165 million people, which has an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

The United States will now work with a shaky coalition government in parliament and is likely to face a much more complicated relationship than when the focus of foreign policy was centered on President Musharraf.

Daniel Markey is a senior analyst for South Asian affairs at the Council on Foreign Relations:

"The fight against these kinds of groups that are interested in attacking the United States or our allies or friends around the world is a fight that was much larger than Musharraf as an individual and required institutional changes within the Pakistani army, intelligence and also at the civilian level, among the civilian political leaders, to address the rising tide of extremism throughout the country," said Daniel Markey.

Surveys show that many Pakistanis believe Mr. Musharraf's support for the United States in the war on terror has resulted in a dramatic increase in suicide bombings and other attacks by insurgents inside Pakistan.

Marvin Weinbaum, a senior scholar at the Middle East Institute, says President Musharraf's resignation offers a new opening for U.S. policy and the potential for greater independence for the Pakistani government.

"With Musharraf out of the way it actually provides an opportunity now for the United States to distance itself, to some extent, so that if the military and the civilian government can agree on a policy which I think inevitably is going to have to be a more aggressive approach to the extremists, it will not be seen as American policy," said Marvin Weinbaum.

Under the Pakistani constitution, the parliament and the country's four provincial assemblies will choose a new president within the next 30 days.