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Pakistan Govt not against Long March, says open for talks

world Updated: Mar 12, 2009 19:44 IST

Striking a conciliatory tone amid deepening political crisis, Pakistan government on Thursday voiced readiness to hold talks with former Premier Nawaz Sharif and said it was not against "in principle" the opposition-backed Long March for restoration of the sacked judges.

As the showdown with the opposition threatened the PPP-led government's stability amid growing militant violence in the country, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said the government "is not against the Long March in principle".

His remarks in the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, came as thousands of opposition activists and lawyers, defying a government ban, set out for the Pakistani capital from various cities of the country as part of the Long March which will culminate into a sit-in outside the Parliament building on March 16.

Sharif, the main opposition PML-N chief, has thrown his weight behind the Long March for restoration of the judges sacked by former President Pervez Musharraf during the emergency rule on 2007.

"The government never shut the door on a compromise (with PML-N)," Malik said, as authorities detained over 350 opposition activist and lawyers across the country.