US to send envoy to Pakistan

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Washington, Nov 14: Concerned over the developing situation in Pakistan, the Bush administration is sending Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte to Islamabad to persuade President Pervez Musharraf to end his 13-day-old emergency and hold free and fair elections.

Negroponte, the second-ranking State Department official, now on an African tour, will be in Islamabad later this week, most probably on Friday.

US State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey, sharing this information to newspersons yesterday said, ''we want to see all moderate political forces in Pakistan be able to work together.

We want to see elections move forward in a free, fair and transparent manner.'' The emergency decree need to be lifted, and the people and the media should be free to express their views, he added.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is currently under house arrest in Lahore. Yesterday, Bhutto called for Gen Musharraf"s resignation and said she would not serve under him in a future government.

When asked to comment on Bhutto"s statement, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, said, "Obviously, there's a lot of political tension in Pakistan right now. The most important thing for the country is to return to its democratic path." Asked about the review of US aid programmes to Pakistan, triggered by Musharraf"s emergency, State Department Spokesman Casey said that Department officials had determined that no aid cuts were legally mandated by the crackdown.

He, however, said that he did not necessarily mean that none would be made. The US aid has averaged more than one billion dollar a year since 2001.


UNI

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