WASHINGTON, Nov 5 (Reuters) US President George W Bush urged Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today to quickly lift a state of emergency, hold elections and quit his military post.
Bush, in his first public comment on the crisis, said he instructed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to call and convey that message to Musharraf, who had defied US pressure when he imposed emergency rule on Saturday.
''We expect there to be elections as soon as possible and that the president should remove his military uniform,'' Bush said after White House talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
But softening his remarks, Bush also pointed out that Musharraf ''has been a strong fighter against extremists and radicals ...
After all they tried to kill him three or four times.'' Bush, in response to a reporter's question, also refused to discuss the consequences should Musharraf fail to take his advice.
Musharraf's declaration of emergency dealt an embarrassing blow to the Bush administration, calling into question the president's unstinting support for the Pakistani leader.
Bush, who has valued Musharraf as an ally in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban while gently pushing him for democratic reforms, now finds himself with limited options.
Washington has said it will review billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan, but any cutoff or reduction of assistance could risk undermining Pakistan's military and counter-terrorism efforts in cooperation with US forces.
The United States has given Pakistan billion in the past five years.
Rice had spoken to Musharraf last week, telling him the United States would oppose any extra-constitutional measures, but her call failed to head off his emergency decree.
''Previous to his decision, we made it clear that these emergency measures would undermine democracy,'' Bush said. ''Our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible.'' Pakistan said today it would hold a national election by mid-January and Musharraf pledged to quit the military after criticism from the United States for imposing emergency rule.
REUTERS MP AS0304