US aide to visit Islamabad, engage General

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Lahore, Nov 13 (UNI) US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is expected to visit Islamabad later this week for talks with the government on the current political crisis, a local media report said today.

Mr Negroponte is expected to meet military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf with a message from Washington, outlining various proposals for ending the crisis, Dawn newspaper quoted official sources as saying.

These include lifting the emergency as soon as possible, ending curbs on the media and the civil society imposed after emergency and releasing all political leaders and activists arrested during the last 10 days.

In an interview to a US newspaper, published yesterday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned that the emergency could discredit the parliamentary elections President Pervez Musharraf has pledged to hold before January 9.

''It's very hard to see how you could have free and fair elections with a state of emergency in place,'' she said.

''And it's one reason that we've been emphasising not just the holding of free and fair elections, but the lifting of the state of emergency as well,''added the US Secretary of State.

President Pervez Musharraf had proclaimed emergency in Pakistan on November 3 and removed judges, arrested the lawyers, put curb on an independent media and ostracised opposition party workers.

This has aroused world wide condemnation of the military ruler whom the United States considers 'closest ally' in its 'war against terror.' UNI

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