Bush personally tells Musharraf to hold polls

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Washington, Nov 8: US President George W Bush personally told his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf to hold parliamentary elections and quit his post as head of the country's army.

In what is described as a very frank phone conversation, Mr Bush said he told General Musharraf that he could not hold the two posts at the same time.

Bush said he told Gen Musharraf last night that he should hold elections soon and should take off his uniform before being sworn in for his second term as president.

Mr Bush himself gave the information about his call to Musharraf during an appearance with the visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

This was President Bush's first call to the Pakistani leader since the latter' s declaration of emergency rule on Saturday.

''My message was that we believe strongly in elections and that you ought to have elections soon and you need to take off your uniform,''Mr Bush said.

Earlier in the day, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee that the Bush administration strongly opposed Pakistani President Musharaff's declaration of emergency rule.

He, however, resisted calls for sharp cuts in US aid to Pakistan, saying General Musharraf had been an ''indispensable'' ally of the United States .

Negroponte said the US assistance to Pakistan totaled about 10 billion dollars since 2001.

Though, the Bush Administration is reviewing the aid program to Pakistan, Negroponte said, ''cutting these programs would send a negative signal to the people of Pakistan. The safety our citizens and the stability of the region depend on nurturing the ties that we have begun to form. Long-term partnership with the Pakistani people is the only option for the United States.''

UNI

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