11/08/2007, 00.00
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Bush asks Musharraf for free elections and an end to emergency rule

In a “frank” telephone call; the US president explains’ to Islamabad’s general that he has no right to remain as head of the army and head of state. Despite this he adds that Pakistan is their best ally in the war on terrorism. Preparations ahead of tomorrows anti government protest, organised by Bhutto.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) –The American President George W. Bush has asked his Pakistani counterpart to abandon his uniform and call elections as soon as possible.  The request for some is more of an ultimatum, and was presented during a “frank” telephone call which lasted over 20 minutes.

Bush told Gen Musharraf “it was not right to continue as both president and head of the military”. But he also noted that Gen Musharraf had been an "indispensable ally" in the war on terrorism.

The US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, told Congress: “No country has done more in terms of inflicting damage and punishment on the Taleban and the al-Qaeda since 9/11.... Their record is quite impressive”. And yet he concluded, “The longer the situation goes on in its present form, the more difficult it's going to become to deal with Islamabad”.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s opposition parties – led by former premier Benazir Bhutto and her Peoples Party – are preparing a huge anti government rally tomorrow.  They are asking for an end to the state of emergency – proclaimed on November 13th last by Musharraf – and parliamentary elections to be held as scheduled in mid November.

The government has declared that the police will not allow the rally due to take place in  Rawalpindi. In response Bhutto has launched a “Long march towards democracy”, in short a series of popular protests to be held in the coming weeks in all major cities across the country.  The activists she concluded “must demand that the government restore the constitution, hold elections and release the lawyers, judges and activists detained in the last few days”.


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