US urges Pakistani forces to participate in polls

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{image-White House_29122007.jpg}Washington, Dec 29: The Bush administration has urged all the moderate political forces in Pakistan, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party to take part in the country's planned elections, abandoning their idea to boycott.

Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League announced its election boycott on Thursday after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said yesterday that US diplomats were busy approaching the moderate Pakistani political parties in the wake of Bhutto's assassination to urge them to participate in the electoral process and to cooperate in the fight against extremism. Mr Casey said, US officials, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nicolas Burns and Assistant Secretary for South Asia Richard Boucher, are approaching the US allies and Pakistan's neighbours, including India, to discuss the situation in Pakistan that had arisen after the assassination of Bhutto.

Mr Sharif is taking a tough line demanding resignation of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in addition to a call for boycott of the polls.

Mr Casey said, "Our ongoing position with him (Sharif) and with others is that it's important that moderate forces in Pakistan agree to work together, and we would certainly encourage him as well as all others, as well as all political parties, to participate in the process, again with an eye towards insuring there is the broadest possible opportunity for the Pakistani people to choose among a variety of legitimate political actors in the country.'' US officials have been saying after the assassination of Bhutto that Pakistanis should honour her memory by going forward with the electoral process, and that there should be no postponement of the voting or re-imposition of emergency rule.

Asked whether Pakistan would have elections as scheduled on January 8, Mr Casey said there was "nothing magic" about the January 8 date, and that the US would support a finite delay in the voting if that is the consensus view of Pakistanis.


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