US hails Mush's declaration to hold polls in Feb

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Washington, Nov 9: The White House has welcomed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's announcement to hold parliamentary elections in the country before mid-February.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack described Mr Musharraf's announcement a ''positive step'' but said ''there are still other important steps that need to be taken in order for Pakistan to return to the pathway of democracy and constitutional rule.'' One of those, he pointed out, was for Mr Musharraf to shed his military uniform. ''There is also a need to roll back the state of emergency (imposed on last Saturday), reinstate constitutional rule and put Pakistan firmly back on that pathway to democracy,'' he added.

Hours before Mr Musharraf's announcement, President Bush had made a personal telephone call to Mr Musharraf, urging him to set an election date and shed his army uniform.

Yesterday, Mr Musharraf also renewed his promise to give up his uniform before taking the oath for his second term in office, but he did not give a date.

Senior US Senators meanwhile urged an end to the state of emergency in Pakistan by introducing a resolution to pressure Mr Musharraf.

A resolution, put forth by former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden, urges a review of military assistance to war-on-terror ally Pakistan while the state of emergency remains in effect.

It calls on Mr Musharraf to ''restore the constitution, follow through on the pledge to relinquish his position as chief of the Army and allow for free and fair elections to be held in accordance with the previously announced timeframe.''


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