Canada says to work with Commonwealth on Pakistan

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Nov 8 (Reuters) Canada will work with fellow members of the Commonwealth to pressure Pakistan to lift its state of emergency and hold elections, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.

Harper declined to comment on whether Ottawa would call for Pakistan's suspension from the Commonwealth at a ministerial meeting of the 53-nation group set for next week to discuss Pakistan.

''This government is going to work with its allies to continue the pressure on Pakistan because this is a very serious, very wrong and very dangerous development for that part of the world,'' Harper told reporters yesterday.

Harper said he was ''very troubled'' by President Pervez Musharraf's crackdown on protesters, saying it could be a step backward in efforts to fight extremist groups.

''I see the government of Pakistan using excuses like the threat of terrorism or the Taliban to effectively clamp down on legitimate opposition in the country,'' he said.

''The consequence of that in the long term will be that the only opposition becomes extremist or even terrorist organizations. That is not in the interest of the world.'' Pakistan was suspended from the Commonwealth's councils in 1999 following the military coup that brought Musharraf to power. It was reinstated in 2004.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said earlier yesterday that suspension is one of the options that the group will discuss at its upcoming meeting.

REUTERS MP AS0419

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