President Bush Monday criticized Pakistan's suspension of constitutional rule and urged President Pervez Musharraf to return his country on the path to democracy. From the White House, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.
President Bush says he instructed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to call General Musharraf and deliver an urgent message regarding the recent establishment of emergency rule in Pakistan.
"We expect there to be elections as soon as possible, and that the president should remove his military uniform," said President Bush. "Previous to his decision, we had made it clear that these emergency measures would undermine democracy."
Mr. Bush spoke with reporters in the Oval Office following a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Earlier, the White House called for the restoration of press freedom in Pakistan and the release of those arrested since constitutional rule was suspended.
Already, the United States has announced that all forms of U.S. aid to Pakistan will be reviewed in light of recent developments, mirroring decisions by other governments around the world. But U.S. officials are quick to add that they want no interruption of General Musharraf's cooperation in the war on terror, a point that Mr. Bush stressed as well.
"At the same time, we want to continue working with him to fight these terrorists and extremists, who not only have tried to kill him, but have used parts of his country to launch attacks into Afghanistan and/or are plotting attacks on America," said Mr. Bush.
On Capitol Hill, U.S. lawmakers expressed concern and outrage over the course of events in Pakistan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said the situation is yet another reminder of what he described as the folly of the Bush administration's determination to continue military operations in Iraq.
"The situation is a reminder of why we [the United States] must change course in Iraq," said Harry Reid. "By staying bogged down in Iraq, President Bush has made it harder to respond to the Pakistani problem and other challenges throughout the world."
Senator Reid urged a thorough review of all U.S. anti-terrorism efforts, starting with the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
In justifying his suspension of constitutional rule, General Musharraf cited terrorist and extremist threats he said must be combated. He compared his actions to those of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln during America's civil war. Neither President Bush nor White House spokeswoman Dana Perino commented on the comparison.