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US to maintain close links with Musharraf despite criticism

UNITED STATES: Washington said it would continue its close links with Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s administration despite a call by a leading US newspaper to distance itself from the embattled general.

The US State Department said it had faith in “war on terror” ally Musharraf’s efforts to implement political reforms, and hoped he would keep his pledge to hold free and fair elections this year and shed his military uniform.

“We continue to work with the Musharraf government and others within the Pakistani political system to continue their process of political reforms,” department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

He said Musharraf, facing the biggest protests of his eight years in power, had made “some progress” in terms of political and economic reforms as well as media freedom.

“What the Pakistani political system is learning — as you open up, more of that brings with it heightened expectations for what might be done,” McCormack said, as the New York Times called Monday for Washington to begin to sever its ties to Musharraf.

“Pakistan seems to be rapidly approaching a critical turning point, with a choice between intensified repression and instability or an orderly transition back to democratic rule,” the influential daily wrote in an editorial.

“Were Washington now to begin distancing itself from the general, it would greatly encourage civic-minded Pakistanis to step up the pressure for free national elections.”

The daily added that the George W. Bush administration “has put itself in the embarrassing position of propping up the Muslim world’s most powerful military dictator as an essential ally in its half-baked campaign to promote democracy throughout the Muslim world.

Washington, Tuesday, AFP

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