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Negroponte In Pakistan

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte met with Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf to discuss several issues, including the war on terrorism and democratic reforms in Pakistan. Mr. Negroponte said the U.S.-Pakistan alliance is strong:

“As far as the message that I brought, it is one of strong friendship and trust. We believe that we have an excellent partnership together in facing the various challenges that confront us.”

“There is no equal to the government of Pakistan in terms of the effort it has made in the war on terror,” he said. Pakistan has deployed some eighty-five-thousand troops to areas along the border with Afghanistan. Since 2001, more than six-hundred Pakistani soldiers and police have been killed fighting al-Qaida terrorists and their allies. Mr. Negroponte said the U.S. and Pakistan will step up cooperation against terrorists threatening Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mr. Negroponte’s visit came at a time of political ferment in Pakistan. President Musharraf’s removal earlier this year of Pakistan’s chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ignited widespread protests, which led to a government crackdown on the media. The media curbs have been eased but protests continue.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the protests show the progress Pakistan has made in democratization:

“This is what you see in a political system that is beginning to open up, and that is positive; that people are free to express their opinions. . . .This is part of an emerging Pakistani democracy and I think that we should look upon that as something that is positive. This is the result of changes President Musharraf has made.”

Mr. McCormack said the case of Mr. Chaudhry is for Pakistanis to resolve according to Pakistani law. He also commented on the prospects for elections:

“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the Pakistani people to decide when those elections are held, how they are held, and all that goes on around them.”

The U.S., says U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte wants Pakistan to have “free, fair, and transparent elections scheduled for this fall or early next year.”