UK calls for election clarity from Musharraf

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LONDON, Nov 5 (Reuters) Britain called on Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf today to say clearly that elections will go ahead in January but said it was not planning to cut off aid over his declaration of emergency rule.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Pakistani officials had made different statements about whether elections would go ahead in January.

''The time is now for President Musharraf to be absolutely clear that elections will go ahead on January 15 on a free and fair basis (and) that he will indeed resign as the head of the army by November 15,'' Miliband told a news conference.

He also urged Musharraf to release political prisoners and to lift curbs on the media.

After talks with US and European counterparts, Miliband said earlier that the international community agreed that Musharraf must take these four steps.

But Miliband said former colonial power Britain was not planning to make development aid conditional on free and fair elections being held. ''I think now is not the time for threats to aid that is important for the Pakistani people,'' he said.

Britain is giving 236 million pounds (491 million dollars) over 2005-2008, according to the Department for International Development. Last year, Britain signed a new 10-year development partnership with Pakistan and pledged to double aid to 480 million pounds in the three-year period to 2011.

Musharraf cited spiralling militancy and an obstructive judiciary in defending his move to suspend the constitution.

Miliband said he had discussed the situation in Pakistan with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Portugal, current holder of the European Union's presidency, and with Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief.

He said he had also spoken to Pakistani opposition leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.


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