Pakistan's Musharraf to invoke emergency rule

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ISLAMABAD, Nov 3 (Reuters) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has decided to impose emergency rule and will seek approval from the cabinet today, a senior security official said, in a move that will put off elections due in January.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan's internal security has deteriorated sharply in the past few months with a wave of suicide attacks by al Qaeda-inspired militants.

Speculation has been rife that US ally Musharraf, who is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on whether he was eligible to run for re-election last month while still army chief, might impose emergency rule or martial law.

Stung by criticism it was adding to a sense of instability, the court said yesterday it would reconvene on Monday and try to finish the case quickly, having earlier said it would take a break until November 12 -- just three days before Musharraf's current term is due to expire.

Before the announcement, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had told journalists travelling with her to Turkey that Washington opposed any authoritarian measures and wanted elections to go ahead.

''I think it would be quite obvious that the United States would not be supportive of extra-constitutional means,'' Rice said. ''Pakistan needs to prepare for and hold free and fair elections.'' Musharraf, who came to power in a 1999 coup, had said he would quit as army chief if he was given a second term, and he had allowed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, back from self-imposed exile to lead her party into the national elections.

The cabinet meeting was due to start at 7 pm (1400 GMT).

REUTERS SKB KP1846

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