Fighters killed in Pakistan clashes

Violence continues as US reiterates support for Musharraf.

    The Pakistani military has come under
    increasing attack [EPA]
    "They are still holed up and firing at security forces. The operation is continuing," he said.
    Earlier on Thursday, two soldiers were killed and four wounded when a roadside bomb blew up their vehicle in neighbouring North Waziristan.
    In another attack, a pro-government tribal elder and his driver were killed by a roadside bomb in Bajaur, a border region to the northeast of Waziristan.
    Violence has intensified in Pakistan since last month when fighters said they were abandoning a 10-month-old pact that the government had hoped would end attacks on security forces.
    US praise
    The attacks came as the US reiterated its support for General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president.

    Richard Boucher said Musharraf was
    committed to hold elections [AFP]

    With Musharraf under intense domestic pressure over his dual role as president and head of the military since seizing power in a 1999 coup, Richard Boucher, US assistant secretary of state, said the general was committed to new elections.
    Boucher praised Musharraf saying he was committed to "making a modern country."
    "There's a definite commitment there for the election, but it's also part of a bigger programme."
    "He's worked for many years on a programme to develop society, to open up the media, to open up civil society."
    Sharif appeal
    Meanwhile, Pakistan's supreme court resumed hearing a petition on Thursday by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister who is seeking to return home, seven years after he was ousted by Musharraf in a military coup.
    Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, another former prime minister in exile, are both hoping to return take part in forthcoming elections.
    Musharraf released Sharif in December 2000 under a deal brokered by the Saudi royal family, on condition he and his family live in exile in Saudi Arabia for 10 years.
    Sharif, who denies any deal was made, and his younger brother Shahbaz, the former chief minister of Punjab, are both hoping they can return to Pakistan.
    The application is being heard by Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the chief justice whom the supreme court reinstated last month after his suspension by Musharraf on allegations of corruption and conflict of interest.
    Sharif still faces corruption charges in Pakistan, as does Bhutto, who left the country nearly a decade ago but also vowed to return soon.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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