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White House Welcomes Musharraf Announcement to Lift Emergency Rule

The White House has welcomed word from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that he intends to lift emergency rule on December 16. VOA's Paula Wolfson has more on the story.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino calls the announcement from President Musharraf "a good step" and says he deserves credit for stepping down as military chief and taking office as a civilian.

She says once emergency rule is lifted, the stage is set for Pakistan to hold parliamentary elections on January 8.

"We look to the candidates and the people of Pakistan to fully participate in these free and fair elections, that they be able to voice their opinions, that they be able to assemble, and that they be able to have the freedom of the press that they had before the emergency order was in place," she said.

If emergency rule is lifted on the 16th, candidates will have only a few weeks to campaign. During a session with reporters, Perino was asked if that is enough time. She said Pakistani campaigns are not necessarily like those in the United States, where candidates are actively seeking votes long in advance of election day.

"We are not going to judge the date of lifting the emergency order," she said. "The president has said it should be lifted as quickly as possible, as soon as possible. President Musharraf has indicated that December 16th will be the date and we hope that he follows through on that."

The White House has been somewhat cautious in its response to events in Pakistan. The Musharraf government has been an ally in the war on terrorism. And the Bush administration has described Mr. Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule as a mistake, urging him to put his country back on the path to democracy.