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Page last updated at 17:41 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 18:41 UK

Musharraf to attend Beijing Games

Protesters burn an effigy of President Musharraf
Mr Musharraf's critics say he is no longer acceptable to Pakistan's people

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics as planned, the foreign ministry has said.

A statement made clear he would leave for China on Thursday. Earlier, the foreign ministry said Mr Musharraf had cancelled the trip but gave no reason.

Pakistan's ruling alliance has been discussing his possible impeachment.

The president's allies were defeated in elections in February. He has so far resisted pressure to quit.

China is one of Pakistan's closest allies, and it would have been highly unusual for a Pakistani leader to call off a visit at such short notice.

The foreign ministry said: "In view of our special relations with China, the president has decided to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. The president will now leave for China tomorrow."

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says the question of whether or not to impeach President Musharraf has threatened to divide the governing coalition.

Early in what was a dramatic day, the threat of a new opposition onslaught appeared sufficient to force him to cancel his Beijing trip. Yet by evening a spokesman said he would travel as planned.

That Mr Musharraf now feels confident enough to fly to China will suggest to many Pakistanis that for now at least he feels more secure in his position, our correspondent says.

Opponents' moves

President Musharraf was originally due to leave for China on Wednesday along with the head of the governing Pakistan People's Party (PPP), Asif Zardari, officials said.

It is not clear whether Mr Zardari plans to proceed with the trip. He has been holding more consultations with alliance partners.


The two sides have agreed to draw up a joint charge sheet against the president... and ask him to defend himself before parliament

Khwaja Asif, PML-N

By Wednesday evening, those talks appeared deadlocked.

At one point, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stormed out following the announcement that President Musharraf had issued orders to reinstate some of Pakistan's top judges.

Mr Sharif argues that the president is attempting to divide the governing coalition.

Pakistan's governing coalition leaders are split on how to restore the judges the president sacked during a state of emergency in November.

A day earlier, the PPP and Mr Sharif's PML-N had indicated they were close to an agreement to impeach Mr Musharraf.

"The two sides have agreed to draw up a joint charge sheet against the president on the basis of available evidence, and ask him to defend himself before the parliament," Khwaja Asif of the PML-N told Geo TV.

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told reporters there was a growing feeling among the alliance leaders that Mr Musharraf was "no longer acceptable to the people of Pakistan".

Mr Musharraf's political allies were defeated in February elections, from which the PPP emerged as the largest party.

Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif met on 5 August 2008
Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif met on Wednesday

In second place was the PML-N of Mr Sharif, whom President Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup.

The two parties formed an alliance in March, but have since been split over the issues of presidential impeachment and the reinstatement of the sacked judges.

The PML-N pulled out of the federal cabinet in May when the PPP refused to move immediately on these issues.

The rift has caused a sense of paralysis in the government, which is under huge US pressure to curb attacks by Taleban and al-Qaeda militants based near the Afghan border.


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