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White House Welcomes Pakistan's Parliamentary Elections

President Bush has welcomed Pakistan's first parliamentary elections since Pervez Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup. Some opposition politicians and human rights groups accuse the government of manipulating the vote to ensure the military retains power.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush discussed the importance of the vote when he met with President Musharraf in New York last month.

Mr. Fleischer says the president is committed to remaining engaged in Pakistan's move toward democracy.

"We welcome the holding of the multi-party national and provincial elections in Pakistan today," he said. "This is an important milestone in Pakistan's ongoing transition to democracy, and we welcome President Musharraf's assurance to the people of Pakistan today that he intends to hand-over executive powers to the new prime minister by early next month."

Following last year's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Pakistan became one of the Bush administration's most important allies in the fight against terrorism and against the Taleban in neighboring Afghanistan.