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United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday said Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf [Images] should 'take off his uniform,' as Washington suspended annual defence talks with Islamabad because of the political situation there after the imposition of emergency.
A day after she said the US would 'review' its financial aid to Pakistan, Rice mounted pressure on Musharraf making a direct call that the General quit as Army Chief and restore civilian rule.
At a news conference in Ramallah, Rice urged Musharraf to follow through on past promises to 'take off his uniform.'
"I want to be very clear. We believe that the best path for Pakistan is to quickly return to a constitutional path and then to hold elections," she said.
"The more quickly and the more urgently that the Pakistan leadership and President Musharraf act on their stated desire to get back to a constitutional path, it will be for the better of everyone," she said.
Defence Secretary Robert Gates, acting in tandem, said in Bejing that the US was reviewing all its assistance programmes to Islamabad and urged Musharraf to restore democratic rule.
Rice had on Sunday said that the US will review aid to Pakistan but indicated it would not suspend aid wholesale. She had also said 'the US did not put all its chips on Musharraf.'
The US has provided about $11 billion to Pakistan since 2001 for the war against terror after the September 11 terror attacks.
Meanwhile, Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defence for policy, who was supposed to head a US delegation to the two-day talks scheduled to open at Islamabad tomorrow, will not go until political conditions improve, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in Beijing [Images].
"These (defence talks) are important bilateral meetings that require an atmosphere in which all the issues can be discussed with the full attention of all participants," Morrell said in Beijing.
"We hope to reschedule this meeting as soon as conditions are more conducive to achieve the important objectives at hand."
Morrel is accompanying Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who on Monday called for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to return his country to a constitutional democracy.
"We urge President Musharraf to return his country to a law-based, constitutional and democratic rule as soon as possible," Gates told media persons in Beijing.
Gates described the developments as 'disturbing.'
But he emphasised that any US actions against Pakistan should have no impact on global efforts to fight terrorism.
"We are reviewing all our assistance programmes (to Pakistan), although we are mindful not to do anything that would undermine counter-terrorism efforts," said Gates, after a meeting with Chinese Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan.
"Some of the aid that goes to Pakistan is directly related to the counterterrorism mission," Rice told media persons on Sunday.
"We just have to review the situation. But I would be very surprised if anyone wants the president to set aside or ignore the responsibility to national security that can come through such cooperation," she said.
Rice said she had not spoken directly with Musharraf since he announced what she called 'extraconstitutional' moves on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said: "I would be on the phone with Musharraf making it clear to him that there is a price to pay if he does not rectify what he's just done."
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