US 'deeply disturbed' by Pakistan emergency rule

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ISTANBUL, Nov 3 (Reuters) The United States said today it was ''deeply disturbed'' that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had declared emergency rule and called it a step backwards for democracy.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on a visit to Turkey that she hoped Pakistan's intention was to have free and fair elections.

''The US has made very clear that it does not support extra-constitutional measures as they would take Pakistan away from the path of democracy and civilian rule,'' Rice told reporters as she was taking off from Turkey.

''We will be urging the commitment to hold free and fair elections be kept and we will be urging calm on all parties.'' Rice said she had not yet heard from Musharraf.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement that Musharraf had promised to hold elections in January and the United States urged him to do so.

''The United States is deeply disturbed by reports that Pakistani President Musharraf has taken extra-constitutional actions and has imposed a state of emergency,'' McCormack said.

Pakistan's internal security has deteriorated sharply in the past few months with a wave of suicide attacks by al Qaeda-inspired militants, including one last month that killed 139 people.

''The United States stand with the people of Pakistan in supporting a democratic process and in countering violent extremism,'' McCormack said in his statement.

''We urge all parties to work together to complete the transition to democracy and civilian rule without violence or delay.'' REUTERS AM AS2252

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