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Amid crackdown, US says Pak must respect freedom of speech

world Updated: Mar 12, 2009 16:58 IST

PTI
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Amid Pakistan's crackdown on opposition activists and ban on rallies, the US said political parties should refrain from violence but said Islamabad must respect freedom of speech, expression and assembly.

Conceding that it is a difficult situation in Pakistan, State Department's Acting spokesman Robert Wood told reporters on Wednesday that the US stand has been that it supports freedom of speech, of expression, and of assembly in Pakistan.

"What we think is important is that the various parties try to resolve their differences within the political system of Pakistan in accordance with its constitution with respect for the rule of law," Wood said in the backdrop of massive crackdown, arrest and detention of the opposition leaders supporting the 'long march' from Lahore to Islamabad.

When asked why the US is not condemning the crackdown on opposition leaders by the Zardari Government and the restriction imposed on assembly and march, the State Department spokesman said: "I've said to you about what our views are with regard to freedom of expression and assembly. That's pretty clear.

"But it's important that all of the parties, as I've said, act in accordance with Pakistan's laws, the constitution, and resolve these differences that they may have within the political sphere and not use violence, Wood said."

The Obama Administration's assessment of the situation came even as Democratic Senator John Kerry said the US must do what it can to "sustain the democracy" in Pakistan amid angry public protests against the government.