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Foreign Ministry spokesman Tariq Altaf
"Pakistan wants to see basic fairness in the approach to both countries"
 real 28k

Friday, 14 January, 2000, 15:52 GMT
Pakistan 'committed to democracy'

The senators met Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar

Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has told a visiting American delegation that he is committed to restoring democracy.

The visit by four Democratic senators led by US senate minority leader, Tom Daschle, is the highest-level contact between the two countries since the military takeover last October.

Pakistan in crisis
"They were told the government was committed to restoration of democratic institutions on the basis of devolution of power," a Pakistan foreign ministry statement said.

General Musharraf told the senators he intended to hold local body elections, at the district level, this year.

Later, in a meeting with Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, they were pressed for a greater US role in resolving the issue of Kashmir with neighbouring India.

The foreign ministry said Mr Sattar talked about regional security and that he hoped the US would "play a proactive role to help resolve the Kashmir problem".

Tom Daschle Tom Daschle has close ties with President Clinton

Washington played a behind-the-scenes role last year, when it put pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to withdraw Pakistan-backed forces from Indian-administered Kashmir, ending a 10-week conflict.

Last month's hijacking of an Indian airliner, allegedly by pro-Kashmiri militants, has led to sharpened rhetoric between the two countries.

India blamed Pakistan over the hijacking and wants it to be declared a terrorist state. Pakistan has rejected the allegations.

Pressed on democracy

The US visit follows that of Britain's Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, also the highest contact between Britain and Pakistan since the coup.

Both countries have been pressing Pakistan to come out with a time-frame for the restoration of democracy.

General Guthrie's visit coincided with reports of a British cabinet split over arms sales to Pakistan but the general stressed that there was no arms embargo on Pakistan.

The senators also met delegations from Nawaz Sharif's Muslim League and an alliance of opposition parties led by Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.

Later this year US assistant secretary of state Karl Inderfurth is due to visit Pakistan.

President Bill Clinton is also scheduled to travel to the region - but it is not clear if Pakistan will be on his itinerary.

The United States was muted in its criticism of the military takeover in October 1999, limiting its criticism to demands for an eventual return to democracy.

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See also:
13 Oct 99 |  UK
Cook warns army after Pakistan coup
11 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Ban on underwriting arms sales
19 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Analysis: Can the army deliver?
13 Oct 99 |  South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
11 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan's coup: The 17-hour victory

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