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October 14, 1999
Restore democracy, Clinton tells Pak
C K Arora in Washington
US President Bill Clinton has called for prompt restoration of democracy in Pakistan, asking the US ambassador to Pakistan to return to Islamabad ''to underscore my view directly to the military authorities and to hear their intentions''.
''I will also be consulting closely with all concerned nations about maintaining peace and stability in South Asia,'' he said, in a written statement.
Ambassador William Milam, who has been in the United States on a vacation and for consultations, would seek a meeting soon with military leaders in Islamabad to emphasise this position.
Milam, who was to leave for Islamabad last night, will be carrying a message of a quick return to civilian rule from the US administration to military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.
This will be the first attempt by the United States to defuse the situation in Islamabad where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, his family members and ministerial colleagues have been under 'protective custody' of the military since its coup on Tuesday.
The president said the events in Islamabad this week represented ''another setback to Pakistani democracy. Pakistan's interests would be served by a prompt return to civilian rule and restoration of the democratic process.''
''I urge that Pakistan move quickly in that direction,'' he added.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defence Secretary William Cohen expressed identical views about the situation in Pakistan.
In a speech at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, Albright said, ''We expect them to return to democratic rule and want to hear what their plans are.''
She, however, said, ''I want to make it absolutely clear that military takeovers of this kind make it difficult to carry on business as usual.''
Cohen, however, said the United States had little leverage over Pakistan. This was because of a decline in relations and trade and because of the military sanctions applied against Pakistan since 1990 over its nuclear programme and intensified after its nuclear tests in May 1998.
Cohen said, ''We have to bring -- talking with our allies -- some kind of a concerted statement of concern so that they get a restoration of constitutional government.''
In reply to a question, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart declined to say whether the United States would oppose further loans to Pakistan by the International Monetary Fund. The latter resumed disbursements in January from a $ 1.5 billion credit that had been stalled because of Pakistan's nuclear testing and concerns about its economic conditions.
The head of the IMF's external affairs department, Thomas Dawson told reporters, ''The change in government will clearly have implications on how we go forward in terms of timing and for the economy.''
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