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Negroponte Urges Musharraf to End Emergency
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Negroponte Urges Musharraf to End Emergency

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Negroponte Urges Musharraf to End Emergency
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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

President PERVEZ MUSHARRAF (Pakistan): Suddenly did I go mad after March, or suddenly my personality changed, am I Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or am I such a person? Have I done anything unconstitutionally illegal? Yes, I did it on 3rd November? Did I do it before? Not once.

SIMON: Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, said that in an interview today on the BBC when he met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte. And Mr. Negroponte urged the general to end emergency rule as soon as possible and allow free and fair elections.

We're joined now by NPR's Philip Reeves in Islamabad.

Philip, thanks very much for being with us.

PHILIP REEVES: You're welcome.

SIMON: Anything else we know about that meeting?

REEVES: Well, yeah, Negroponte would have told Musharraf that the U.S. wants Musharraf to lift the emergency as soon as possible. The U.S. is arguing that it wants elections which are credible. It's very hard to see how that can happen while draconian emergency laws are in place.

Negroponte is saying that he's (unintelligible 07:38) what he calls the derailed political process back on track, by which he means a transition from military to civilian rule. As we know, he's entering very troubled waters. Benazir Bhutto has abandoned attempts to work with Musharraf. She's an outright opposition, and now, she's talking about forging a common agenda with the opposition party.

By the way, Negroponte spoke to Bhutto by phone yesterday. The meeting today with Musharraf lasted more than two hours we're told.

SIMON: And any statement from General Musharraf, or any indication of his response so far?

REEVES: Well, Pakistani officials are saying that Musharraf's arguing that he has to keep the state of emergency in place in order to ensure peaceful elections. Of course, the opposition party's dispute that. Harshly, they say, elections under an emergency will be a sham and they're considering a boycott.

But Musharraf has thrown a new argument into the mix. In that BBC interview that we just heard, in fact, in that interview he warned that what he called a disturbed environment, (unintelligible) dangerous elements who could pose a risk to Pakistan's control over its nuclear arsenal. But then he added that if the country manages itself politically and as long as the military's there, the weapons are, of course, safe, he said.

Now, that's the first time he's made this argument to defend his emergency rule.

SIMON: Of course, as we've noted over the past couple of weeks, the government had blacked out several of Pakistan's private TV news channels. We learned today that just before Mr. Negroponte arrived, several of them were allowed back on the air, but I gather some other stations have been shut down. What's the state of that?

REEVES: Yeah. This involves two of Pakistan's leading private TV networks: Geo and ARY World. They were taken off air by the authorities in Pakistan when the emergency rule began along with the other independent news channels. But they kept their transmissions going outside the country through the United Arab Emirates from studios that they've got in Dubai's Media City.

Now, they're now saying that the Dubai Media City people have told them that their transmissions from there have been shut down, and they're blaming that on pressure from the Pakistani authorities, from the intelligence agencies in Pakistan, and today there are protests going on outside Geo TV studios in Islamabad.

SIMON: NPR's Philip Reeves. Thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

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