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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 14:48 GMT

World: South Asia

Musharraf promises 'stronger democracy'

General Musharraf at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in Turkey

Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has reaffirmed that he intends to restore democracy to Pakistan.

The general made his comments after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on his first visit to a Nato country since he took over in a coup last month.

Pakistan in crisis
The visit has stirred controversy in Pakistan, an Islamic republic, because of General Musharraf's stated admiration for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

"We want to establish a stronger form of democracy...a democracy which will be much more of what it was (in the past)," he told reporters at a news conference in Ankara.

But he said he was unable to give a timetable for when civilian rule could be restored.

Ankara correspondent Chris Morris: "Turkey and Pakistan have always been close allies"
Turkey's President, Suleyman Demirel, who has twice been overthrown by the military, was due to meet the Pakistani leader later in the day and said he planned to give General Musharraf "lessons in democracy".

General Musharraf visited the mausoleum of Ataturk, expressing his admiration, and compared himself with General Kenan Evren, who overthrew Mr Ecevit and Mr Demirel in a coup in 1980.

The general said he regarded himself as "a soldier and not a politician" and like General Evren, planned to "silently fade away".

General Musharraf's admiration for Ataturk aroused the anger of hardline Muslim leaders in Pakistan, who said they would reject any attempts to temper Islamic rule in the country.

Turkish greeting

Earlier, on arrival at Ankara, General Musharraf greeted a military honour guard in Turkish.

[ image: Suleyman Demirel will give
Suleyman Demirel will give "lessons in democracy"
He spent part of his childhood in Turkey, where his father was posted at the Pakistani embassy, and is said to be fluent in the language.

General Musharraf said he looked to broaden his country's defence ties with Turkey.

It is his second overseas trip overthrowing the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October.

Last month, he visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both allies of Pakistan.

Correspondents say Pakistan's military is keen to cement ties with traditional allies, but one of the main challenges is to win the support of the United States.

The BBC's correspondent in Ankara, Chris Morris, says it is worth noting that General Musharraf's visit came just a week before a scheduled visit to Turkey by President Clinton.

A special envoy, former Pakistan Foreign Minister Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, is currently in Washington for talks.

General Musharraf arrived in Turkey from the gulf state of Qatar, where he said that India would find him more than co-operative, if it showed goodwill in trying to settle disputes like Kashmir. He is to visit Kuwait before returning home.

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