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Former Pakistani PM Threatens to Quit Ruling Coalition

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has threatened to quit the country's ruling coalition if judges fired by former President Pervez Musharraf are not immediately reinstated.

IIn an interview published Thursday in the U.S.-based "Wall Street Journal" newspaper, Mr. Sharif says if the judges are not restored, he and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, will leave the coalition to become an opposition party.

The former prime minister also said the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, had pledged the judiciary would be restored within 24 hours of Mr. Musharraf's impeachment. Mr. Musharraf resigned as president on Monday before facing impeachment proceedings.

Pakistan's ruling coalition remained deadlocked on restoring the judges, after talks on Tuesday. Mr. Sharif has been adamant about reinstating the judiciary, but Zardari has been reluctant. If reinstated, the justices could take up challenges to a legal amnesty granted to PPP leaders on corruption charges.

Ruling coalition members are expected to meet Friday for a second round of talks that are also expected to center on determining Pakistan's new president. Mr. Musharraf's successor is to be elected by the national parliament and provincial assemblies.

Lawmakers from the PPP have voiced support for Zardari to be the next president.

On Wednesday, the opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement also said Zardari should be the country's newest leader. The party praised the PPP leader for the way he handled Mr. Musharraf's ouster from government.

Separately, White House officials say U.S. President George Bush called Mr. Musharraf Thursday and thanked him for his help in the fight against al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

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