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Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan facing tough measures

Heightened alert: Indian soldiers display weapons seized in Kashmir

Pakistan looks set to be suspended from the Commonwealth of former British colonies as part of tough international measures following the military coup.

BBC's Rob Watson: Any new measures will be limited
The United States is to impose sanctions and the European Union foreign ministers are threatening to cut off international aid to force the military to restore democratic rule.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said: "Our expectation would be that on Monday Pakistan will be suspended from the Commonwealth. The military regime should be suspended."

Pakistan in crisis
Britain is due to host an emergency meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on Monday. The UK is also suspending assistance to Pakistan.

The US decision to proceed with sanctions comes after a meeting between the American ambassador to Pakistan, William Milam, and General Pervez Musharraf.

However, officials have acknowledged that Washington does not have much leverage over Pakistan's new military ruler.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said: "The reality here is that Pakistan is already heavily sanctioned. There's very little on the sanction front that can be done in addition."

[ image: US Senate hearings: Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth testifies]
US Senate hearings: Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth testifies
The US imposed some sanctions on Pakistan in the early 1990s in protest at the country's nuclear weapons programme.

The US ambassador held a two-hour meeting with General Musharraf on Friday, in which he reiterated US concerns and re-stated Washington's desire for a return to democracy.

He did not explicitly call for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to be returned to office, Mr Lockhart said.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said steps were being taken to cut off the limited US aid still going to Pakistan - worth about $2m.

On Thursday, Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth said further legal sanctions would be imposed, but he said they would have "little or no effect".

It spends $33m a year on projects in Pakistan, about half of which goes to the government.

'Threat to security'

Other international reaction to the declaration of a state of emergency by General Musharraf has ranged from muted to sharply negative.

[ image: Troops bar entrance to parliament]
Troops bar entrance to parliament
Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, also said he would be calling on the Commonwealth to suspend Pakistan's membership.

Mr Axworthy said the events in Pakistan could "represent a threat to international security", in light of the tense relations between Pakistan and India, the world's two newest nuclear powers.

In India, official reaction has been cautious.

"We have concerns about the direction in which the situation is moving," an external affairs ministry spokesman said.

"We have all kinds of concerns we have had with Pakistan earlier, including the issue of cross-border terrorism."

The spokesman said events in Pakistan made it hard to say when New Delhi and Islamabad might start talking about peace.

Grave concern

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Delhi: Pakistan's state of emergency is causing unease in Delhi
The BBC's correspondent in Delhi, Daniel Lak, says the Indian armed forces have been on heightened alert for days.

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi expressed grave concern. "The move runs counter to democracy and is extremely worrying," he told reporters at his official residence.

"We strongly hope that the situation will be settled promptly through democratic and constitutional processes."

France has called for a return to constitutional order and civilian rule in Pakistan.

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