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Bhutto mum on resuming Musharraf talks

Benazir tells CNN that US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte "did the right thing" in pressing Musharraf.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2007 01:21 IST

Pakistani ex-premier Benazir Bhutto on Sunday welcomed US calls for President Pervez Musharraf to scrap emergency rule but refused to be drawn on whether she might rejoin talks with the military ruler.

Bhutto told CNN that Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte "did the right thing" in pressing Musharraf, during talks in Islamabad, to shed his army uniform and lift the emergency before elections planned for January.

"But this nation is waiting for General Musharraf to give a date to... retire as army chief. He was supposed to retire on November 15th. And he hasn't done so," said Bhutto, who was freed from house arrest early on Friday.

"And we just wonder how we can have fair elections when so many people are under arrest and the media is gagged," she said.

Negroponte urged Musharraf and Bhutto to resume power-sharing talks, which Washington had been eyeing as a moderate bulwark against extremism.

Bhutto appeared to scrap hope of a deal last week, ruling out further talks and vowing never to serve under Musharraf. Asked on CNN if she might work with Musharraf if he complies with the demands, she said "let's stop a moment and see whether he first responds to Washington."

"Let's first see whether Mr Negroponte's visit bears fruit in terms of General Musharraf retiring as chief of army staff before the new date that he has set himself.

"But even if he does, there are other issues -- a fair election doesn't just happen because one says one wants a fair election, we have to see proof of that."

In his talks with Negroponte, Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, repeated a pledge to resign as army chief before taking office for a second time as president.

But there was no sign of any date for halting the two-week-old emergency, which he says should stay in place until general elections by January 9.