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US Urges Political Consensus in Pakistan After Elections

The Bush administration said Tuesday it hopes to see a moderate consensus emerge in Pakistan after parliamentary elections that will continue reforms and combat extremism and terror. Pakistani voters Monday dealt a major setback to the party of President Pervez Musharraf. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Despite the blow to President Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, officials here reject the notion the election was a defeat for the Bush administration. They say the United States is ready to work cooperatively with both Mr. Musharaf and the government that emerges from Monday's voting.

Asked about implications for Washington from the Pakistani election, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack quipped that he did not recall seeing the United States on the ballot.

But he said the parties that gained in the election, led by the Pakistan People's Party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, all have in one form or another expressed what he termed "an abiding commitment" to combat extremism and terror. He said he hopes that consensus is reflected in the policies of the coalition government that will now take shape:

"What we will urge is that those moderate forces within Pakistani politics, who now have a seat at the table so to speak in winning seats in the parliament, should band together, should work together for a few goals that are in the interest of Pakistan: broaden and deepen Pakistan's economic and political reforms, remain committed to fighting violent extremists and terrorists in the region and on Pakistan soil," he said. "This is in the long-term interests of Pakistan and the Pakistani people."

McCormack said the United States has a "deep national interest" in working with Pakistan in breaking up terrorist cells that operate from that country's remote, federally administered tribal areas of north and south Waziristan.

At the same time, he said the most important bulwark against terrorism in Pakistan is the development of a more open, free and prosperous society.

The comments follow a Washington Post report Tuesday that a rocket attack that killed a senior al-Qaida commander, Abu Laith al-Libi, in northwestern Pakistan late last month was staged by a CIA-operated drone aircraft operating without explicit Pakistani approval.

McCormack said he would have no particular comment on the newspaper account, because it involved intelligence-related activities.

But the spokesman said the Bush administration has a "good level of cooperation" with Pakistan in fighting terrorism and said the United States "respects the sovereignty" of its friends and allies.