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Sharif to Bhutto: boycott poll

Former prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday urged rival opposition leader Benazir Bhutto to join his party in boycotting upcoming general elections.

world Updated: Nov 27, 2007 22:23 IST

Former prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday urged rival opposition leader Benazir Bhutto to join his party in boycotting upcoming general elections.

Sharif, who returned home from exile on Sunday, said he had been in telephone contact with Bhutto three or four times in the last few days as they consider their strategy against President Pervez Musharraf.

A Bhutto party aide earlier said the two had not spoken.

"I shall try to convince Benazir Bhutto to boycott the polls," Sharif told reporters in his home city of Lahore, in eastern Pakistan, adding that he had already asked her to take a "firm stance" against the vote.

He said Musharraf wanted to rig the January 8 polls in order to secure a sufficient majority in parliament that would indemnify him over his imposition of emergency rule and his sacking of many of the nation's top judges.

Bhutto and Sharif, both two-time former premiers and now Pakistan's main opposition leaders, are jockeying for position as they seek to lead a united front against Musharraf.

Sharif will preside a meeting Thursday of a broad coalition of opposition groups to decide whether they should boycott the polls, senior party leader Raja Zafarul Haq said.

Bhutto's party, the largest opposition party in Pakistan, is not part of the alliance and is widely expected to take part in the vote. Her spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Bhutto sent flowers to Sharif with a message welcoming him home Sunday.

But he said there had been no telephone contact, and that while Bhutto was ready to meet Sharif, nothing had been planned.