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Pakistan's Zardari Tries to Ease Concerns About Fragile Coalition

The leader of Pakistan's main ruling party says he is optimistic the country's six-week-old governing coalition will remain intact despite the Cabinet resignations of a key coalition partner.

Asif Ali Zardari says there is still disagreement between his Pakistan People's Party and the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on re-instating deposed judges. But he told a news conference in Islamabad Wednesday the two sides will resolve the issue and preserve their coalition government.

Nine Cabinet ministers from Mr. Nawaz's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party submitted their resignations Tuesday. The move came after the main coalition partners failed to meet a Monday deadline to reinstall the judges.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has not yet accepted the resignations. He told VOA Tuesday the break between the parties is temporary and he hopes they will make a deal to reinstate the judges.

Mr. Sharif's party wants the unconditional reinstatement of judges deposed by President Pervez Musharraf last year. Zardari wants to link their reinstatement to constitutional reforms.

Zardari today said re-instating judges without resolving other constitutional issues could lead to a constitutional crisis.

Mr. Musharraf fired scores of senior judges last year after they questioned the legitimacy of his re-election as president while serving as Pakistan's top military officer.

The president's attempts to confront the judiciary - in particular, Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry - set off a strong opposition movement.