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US to continue to keep in touch with Musharraf

Crediting him for holding free elections, the US says it will continue to pursue its interests for a stable Pakistan.

world Updated: Feb 23, 2008 12:05 IST

Crediting President Pervez Musharraf for holding free and fair elections, the US has said it would continue to keep in touch with him and pursue its interests for a stable and democratic Pakistan

"It was many, many months ago that I stood next to the Foreign Minister of Pakistan during a visit there and said there need to be free and fair elections in Pakistan," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Washington on the eve of her departure to a three-nation tour of South Korea, China and Japan.

"And we have had exactly that message and hammered home that message since that day. That was the message that we gave to President Musharraf -- lift the state of emergency, take off the uniform, and guide your country toward free and fair elections," she said in response to a query. "I believe he has done exactly that."

The elections, she said, "Were elections that I think instill some confidence in the Pakistani people that this was an outcome that moves them closer, further down the road back to not just civilian government, but to a democratic civilian government that is more broadly based. That is, to my mind, the best possible outcome, which is that the Pakistani people now have a chance for civilian government that is broadly based."

"How they arrange their coalition is really a Pakistani affair. The President of Pakistan is Pervez Musharraf... And so, of course, we will deal with him. We will continue to pursue the American interests, which are for a stable and democratic Pakistan."

"That's why our programmes have been also not just about counter-terrorism, but also on education and also on women's empowerment, and all of the elements of support for Pakistani social and economic progress that we've had," Rice said.

"It's also, though, in our interest to have a sustained and very robust counter-terrorism effort... Counter-terrorism effort is also in the interests of the Pakistan people, who watched one of their great political leaders (Benazir Bhutto) assassinated by extremists," she maintained.

Rice said, "We and the Pakistani people have a common agenda here. They have made their voices known. The United States is very proud for them, that they have made their voices known in this way, and we're going to pursue relations with Pakistan with our interests in mind, the way that we would with any other country that we believe is making progress toward a more democratic future."