Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
World: South Asia
US warns against Pakistan coup
Teargas is fired at anti-government protesters in Karachi
By Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad
United States diplomats in Islamabad have confirmed reports that the US would strongly oppose any attempt by political or military forces to overthrow the Pakistani Government.
The US statement comes shortly after Shabaz Sharif, the brother of the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had a series of meetings with senior US officials in Washington.
The Pakistani Government has become increasingly anxious in recent weeks.
In the first place, it has been concerned by the fact that the opposition has formed a 19-party alliance committed to forcing the resignation of Nawaz Sharif.
The US statement will consequently come as a considerable relief to the government.
US officials meanwhile have been trying to portray their position as a balanced one.
Statement will be welcomed
They say that by opposing any interruption in the democratic process, they are offering support not to Nawaz Sharif as an individual, but rather to the Pakistani constitution.
They also say they told the government that it must tolerate the opposition's desire to express its point of view, and that it must also safeguard the freedom of the press.
Despite such qualifications, there is no doubt that the US position will be welcomed by Nawaz Sharif and his ministers.
Politicians in Pakistan traditionally place great emphasis on the attitudes of officials in Washington and in recent weeks, leading opposition politicians from Pakistan have travelled to the United States, where they told officials that they are determined to oust Nawaz Sharif.