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Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said he has no plans to resign despite a sweeping election victory by opposition parties over his allies, in a US newspaper interview published late Tuesday.
Asked by the Wall Street Journal whether he would resign or retire, Musharraf said: "No, not yet. We have to move forward in a way that we bring about a stable democratic government to Pakistan."
Musharraf also said the country had made progress in establishing security in the country's unstable Northwest Frontier region, and said that whoever controls the government will be committed to fighting terrorism and extremists.
"It's in Pakistan's interest to fight terrorism and extremism," he said, according to the newspaper's website.
"So whatever government there is I'm pretty sure they will continue to fight terrorism and extremism. Why would any government change its priorities?"
Musharraf blamed his supporters' losses in the elections on a combination of a sympathy vote for Benazir Bhutto, his rival who was assassinated during the campaign, sharply rising prices for wheat flour, power and gas, and a battle in the judiciary last year that led to Musharraf sacking the Supreme Court.
But he said the polls were fair.
"We have held free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections. This was my promise, which has been delivered," he said.
"How it is different is that there's a likely change of government. There will be a coalition government that will be coming in."
Despite mounting calls for him to step down, he refused to budge, saying he will work with whoever is named prime minister, even another longtime rival, Nawaz Sharif -- whom then-army boss Musharraf ousted in a bloodless coup in 1999, and whom Musharraf has since accused of trying to kill him.
"I would like to function with any party and any coalition because that is in the interest of Pakistan," Musharraf told the newspaper, declining to say whether he was concerned his opponents would try to oust him.
"We have to go for conciliatory politics and harmonious interaction within the government, between various parties and between the prime minister and the government. I will strive towards that end. On the other side, I can't say."
"The president has no mandate to share governing power with the prime minister. The prime minister runs the government," he added.
"The clash would be if the prime minister and president would be trying to get rid of each other. I only hope we would avoid these clashes."
Asked if he would try to broker a new coalition government, Musharraf said he had no role to play in it.
"I'm not heading a political party. Let the political parties meet with each other and form a coalition. If any one thinks I can facilitate in a positive way for Pakistan I would like to do it."
"It's the mutual interests in the region, especially the fight against terrorism that has led to our strategic relationship. Now it is broad based, and long-term.
"So it is an issue-related relationship, which has led to a personal relationship with President Bush, and I cherish the relationship."
He said Pakistan was past its history of military overthrows of elected leaders.
"The National Security Council will impose checks and balances on the prime minister performing well, the president not impulsively using his authority to dissolve the assembly, the army chief not impulsively imposing martial law. This wasn't there before," he said.
"The other check is the freedom of the media. I would like to take all the credit for that. Whatever the media says, it is I who gave them the private television channels." (AFP)
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