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Rice calls for quick elections in Pakistan

Written by: Staff
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JERUSALEM, Nov 4 (Reuters) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appealed today for restraint on all sides in Pakistan and said President Pervez Musharraf must affirm that elections will take place.

Rice, on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, said the United States had made clear to close ally Pakistan's leaders before emergency rule was announced that such a move would not be supported by the United States.

''It is in the best interests of Pakistan and the Pakistani people for there to be a prompt return to the constitutional course, for there to be an affirmation that elections will be held for a new parliament and for all parties to act with restraint in what is obviously a very difficult situation,'' Rice told reporters.

The United States has been pushing hard for Pakistan to go ahead with elections, which were due in January.

Since emergency rule was declared yesterday, opposition figures have been rounded up in Pakistan and the nationwide crackdown continued today.

Authorities arrested a top leader of exiled former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party and several other opposition figures.

Pakistan is a close US ally but Rice said she had not yet spoken to Musharraf since he declared the state of emergency.

In August, when Musharraf was considering emergency rule, Rice made two urgent phone calls and strongly urged him not to adopt such measures.

REUTERS SYU HT1332

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