Pakistani riot police Thursday prevented opposition leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from meeting the country's ousted chief justice, who is under virtual house arrest.

Hundreds of police guarding the Islamabad residence of deposed justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry stopped Mr. Sharif and dozens of his supporters as they tried to get past barricades set up around Chaudhry's home.

On Wednesday, the government forcibly retired at least 27 senior judges, including Chaudhry - who is a fierce critic of President Pervez Musharraf.

The judges had refused to take a new oath of allegiance after Mr. Musharraf imposed emergency rule on November 3.

Mr. Sharif told VOA's Urdu Service on Wednesday that his party and the party of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto are nearing agreement on conditions the government must meet to avoid a threatened opposition boycott of next month's parliamentary elections.

The opposition parties want creation of an independent election commission to make sure the balloting is not rigged in President Musharraf's favor. They also want the government to restore an independent judiciary and the constitution before the elections.

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