Moderate forces in Pakistan should unite: US

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Washington, Feb.17: The United States Government has said that it wants moderate forces in Pakistan to work together to help govern the country and put it back on the path to democratic rule.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack was quoted by the Daily Times as saying that Washington hoped the February 18 elections would produce a government in which Pakistanis could have confidence. He said Washington has provided the funding for the training of Pakistani election observers, adding that other countries had different efforts underway as well.

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration has hired Democracy International as a last resort to monitor Pakistan's general elections after every other monitoring group in the US declined to travel to Pakistan.

According to a report published in the Washington Post on Saturday, several respected non-governmental groups, including the Carter Centre and the Asia Foundation, turned down the US State Department's contract.

Citing security concerns, the monitoring groups said it was impossible to monitor the nationwide vote or properly evaluate the outcome.

The Post notes that Democracy International has never before taken an election observer mission. USAID Asia and Near East Acting Assistant Administrator Mark Ward has said that the agreement between the group and the State Department came at "close to the eleventh hour" and cost the US nearly a million dollars.

The report observes that the efforts to mobilise election monitor underscores the Bush administration's attempts to boost President Pervez Musharraf, its ally in the "war on terror". However, the lateness of the mission, which arrived in Pakistan last week, to observe the polls has been slammed by International Crisis Group Vice President Mark Schneider, who said it was unreasonable to "go in two or three days before the election and expect to be able to make a judgment".

He said the approach contradicted "lessons learned in 25 years of election monitoring".

ANI

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