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Exiled Sharif to Return to Pakistan, Despite Saudi Request Not to Do So


Pakistan's exiled former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, plans to return home next week, despite a request from Saudi Arabia that he not go back.

The official Saudi Press Agency Tuesday quoted an unnamed government official as saying Mr. Sharif should honor the commitment he made when he was exiled to the Kingdom in 2000 to stay out of Pakistan and politics for 10 years.

But senior leaders of Mr. Sharif's political party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, told reporters in Islamabad Wednesday that he will return on September 10.

The two-time former prime minister could still face corruption charges in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Pakistan People's Party led by another two-term prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, has reported progress in renewed talks with government officials about a possible power sharing deal with President Pervez Musharraf.

The two sides resumed talks Tuesday in the Persian gulf city of Dubai.

Last week, Ms. Bhutto said that General Musharraf had agreed to step down as military chief before the elections, which is one of her conditions. He later denied making such a promise.

In Pakistan, the country's chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Tuesday urged the government to release hundreds of people believed held without charges. He said there is overwhelming evidence that the hundreds of those missing since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States are in fact in Pakistani government custody.

The deputy attorney general, Naheeda Mahboob Elahi, says the government is still trying to locate the missing.

Human rights organizations say Pakistan's intelligence agencies have abducted hundreds of people suspected of links to terrorism including government critics, journalists and academics.

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