Release of Pak pol detainees a ''good step'': Rice

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Washington, Nov 23: Terming the release of opposition leaders by the Musharraf regime in Pakistan as a ''good step'', US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was only one step of what was needed.

''We're looking for him to take off his uniform and lift the state of emergency so that elections can be held in a free and open atmosphere,'' she said in an interview-''Roundtable with representatives of Radio, Television and Wires.'' ''The Bush Administration wants President Pervez Musharraf to lift the emergency he imposed on November 3, which was not compatible with free, fair, and credible elections, scheduled for January 8. It requires the active participation of political parties, civil society and the media,'' Ms Rice added.

Pakistan, on Tuesday announced the release of around 3,400 people arrested in the past two weeks. The remaining 2,000 are expected to be freed soon.

Talking about Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte's visit to Pakistan, Ms Rice said, ''He had gone out to tell Pakistan how important it was to get back on a road to greater realisation and democratic development, freeing of the press, development of the civil society and economic reform.'' It was also to help put Gen Musharraf to put the country back on the road to democratic reform, she said.

''We still believe that moderate forces ought to try to come together to present a unified front against extremism, because it is a problem in Pakistan,'' she added.


UNI

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