Gates postpones Pakistan meetings

Nov. 5, 2007 at 4:09 PM
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BEIJING, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Department announced it has postponed bilateral defense consultative meetings with Pakistan after emergency rule was declared in the country.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, while on a trip in Asia, announced that a planned delegation to Islamabad led by U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman scheduled for Nov. 6-7 has been postponed. Gates also said the United States is closely watching the situation in Pakistan and will review all assistance programs to the country, the U.S. Defense Department reported.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's declared emergency rule Saturday, a move that has widely been condemned.

“Pakistan is a country of great strategic importance to the United States and a key partner in the war on terror,” Gates said in a statement.

Gates urged Musharraf to return Pakistan to law-based, constitutional and democratic rule as soon as possible.

Pentagon officials say the meetings were postponed but that they have not been canceled.

“In light of President Musharraf’s declaration it was thought wise to postpone this meeting until such time that all parties can focus on the very important issues at hand that they have to discuss,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.

“These are important bilateral meetings that require an atmosphere where the issues can be addressed with the full attention of all participants. We hope to reschedule these meetings as soon as conditions are more conducive to the important objectives at hand.”

Morrell said that U.S. military operations in neighboring Afghanistan have not been affected by Musharraf’s declaration in Pakistan.

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