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Page last updated at 04:49 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 05:49 UK

Musharraf urges 'reconciliation'

President Musharraf addressing the nation on 13 August 2008
President Musharraf has said he would rather resign than be impeached

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said the country needs political stability for economic development and to fight militancy.

Speaking on the eve of Pakistan's Independence Day, Mr Musharraf said: "Differences should be buried."

His comments came amid increasing pressure on him from the ruling coalition to step down or face charges of corruption and abuse of power.

Mr Musharraf has clung to power despite the defeat of his allies in elections.

"I appeal to all elements to adopt an approach of reconciliation so that there is political stability and we can firmly confront the real problems facing the country," Mr Musharraf said in a TV address ahead of Thursday's Independence Day celebrations.

Pakistan is going through a difficult phase of its history
President Pervez Musharraf

He said Pakistan was passing through a "difficult phase in its history".

"Our adversaries are trying to destabilise Pakistan from several fronts, internal as well as external."

Mr Musharraf said the country's defence forces were "stronger than ever before".

Uphill battle

The president's comments came on a day when the assembly in the province of Sindh passed a resolution calling on him to take a vote of confidence or resign.

The vote follows similar resolutions by the Punjab and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) assemblies.

The BBC's Chris Morris in Islamabad says that in public, President Musharraf's supporters are defiant but behind the scenes there are negotiations about a dignified exit.

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Our correspondent says that he could pre-empt impeachment by resigning in the next few days or he could answer the charges brought against him in parliament first.

But our correspondent says the numbers do not look good for the man often described by President Bush as a key ally in the American-led war on terror.

"He has two options: to stay and fight or quit and go home," Mushahid Hussain, secretary-general of the former ruling PML-Q party which supports Mr Musharraf told the Associated Press news agency.

"If he fights back we are with him. We will support him, and that is the preferred option."

An impeachment would take Pakistani politics into new territory, since no Pakistani leader has faced it before. Coalition leaders insist they have the numbers in parliament.

Mr Musharraf has previously said he would rather resign than face impeachment proceedings.

The president retains the power to dissolve parliament, but most analysts believe he is unlikely to do this.

He took power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and gave up control of the army last year. His allies were routed in elections in February.

Mr Musharraf was elected president for a five-year term last October in a controversial parliamentary vote. He is still thought to have heavy influence over the military and its reaction will remain crucial.

Pakistan has been ruled by military leaders for more than half of its existence since Partition in 1947.




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