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US Praises Musharraf for Giving Up Army Post

U.S. officials say they consider President Pervez Musharraf's resignation as military chief a good first step towards restoring democratic rule in Pakistan.

White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino Wednesday said President Bush is now calling on Mr. Musharraf to lift emergency rule and ensure that free and fair elections will be held in January.

Earlier Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed President Bush's sentiments during interviews with U.S. television networks.

The U.S. considers Pakistan a key ally in the war on terror, having given more than $10 billion in mostly military aid to President Musharraf's government since 2001.

British leaders also welcomed Mr. Musharraf's removal of his army uniform. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the resignation is an important part of the Pakistani leader's plan to restore constitutional order.

Mr. Brown said he understood the threat to Pakistan's peace and security, but urged President Musharraf to use the normal democratic process to respond.

After weeks of pressure from the international community and opposition members, President Musharraf relinquished his role as military chief today. He is now to take the oath of office for a second five-year term as Pakistan's president on Thursday.

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