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Pak suspension from C'wealth 'appropriate': Australia

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer describes Pakistan's suspension from the Commonwealth as a "quite appropriate" but ultimately symbolic move.

world Updated: Nov 23, 2007 11:15 IST

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Friday described Pakistan's suspension from the Commonwealth as a "quite appropriate" but ultimately symbolic move.

Downer said Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf had failed to meet a series of benchmarks set by Commonwealth leaders, in particular he had failed to step down as chief of the army staff and reinstate democracy.

Pakistan "had to meet them by November 22 which obviously they didn't," Downer said.

Musharraf clearly had weighed up the consequences and decided it was worth the risk, Downer said.

"It is symbolic more than anything," he told Sky News.

Commonwealth foreign ministers meeting in Kampala suspended Pakistan on Thursday, saying the situation in Pakistan "continued to represent a serious violation of the Commonwealth's fundamental values."

Musharraf declared a state of emergency on November 3, placing the chief justice under house arrest, detaining lawyers, rights activists and opposition members and curbing press freedoms.

An ultimatum issued by the 53-state organisation of mostly former British colonies for Musharraf to end emergency rule, step down as army chief and ensure free and fair elections expired on Thursday.

Downer did not attend the Kampala meeting due to Saturday's national election in Australia.