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Musharraf to address nation amid resignation rumours

ISLAMABAD, August 18  – Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is to address the nation on Monday afternoon, his spokesman told AFP, while dismissing rumours that he had resigned to avoid impeachment.

"The president will address the nation at 1:00pm (0700 GMT)," said retired Major General Rashid Qureshi, the chief presidential spokesman.

Asked about local television reports that Musharraf had already resigned in the face of attempts by the governing coalition to impeach him, the spokesman replied, "It is all nonsense."

Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led "war on terror", has other options available apart from resignation, including his powers as president to dissolve parliament and even to declare a state of emergency.

Either move would require the support of the powerful army — which Musharraf led until November last year — but the military has so far remained silent on his fate.

Officials say that Musharraf’s aides have been in talks with the coalition, brokered by Saudi Arabia, the United States and Britain, to allow him to quit in return for an indemnity for his previous actions.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said it appeared that Musharraf had "seen the writing on the wall" but did not say if he knew what the president was planning to announce.

"He is a wise man, he is a very experienced man and he has seen the writing on the wall," Qureshi told Dawn News television when asked if he had confirmation that Musharraf had resigned.

"He has seen the sentiments of not just the elected representatives, but various institutions… who all asked him to move in a particular way and do not destabilise things here," he said.

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Pervez Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999 and then imposed a state of emergency in November last year to push his re-election to another five-year term through the Supreme Court.

His popularity first slumped after he tried to sack the country’s chief justice in March 2007 and his political allies were trounced in elections in February.

Speculation over Musharraf’s fate intensified overnight when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that granting asylum to Musharraf was not currently under consideration by the United States.

"That’s not an issue on the table, and I just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic government of Pakistan," Rice told Fox News when asked if Washington would give the Pakistan president asylum.

Western allies want Pakistan to resolve the crisis over Musharraf so it can deal with the fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, where nearly 500 people have died in the past week.

The government is also struggling to deal with a severe economic crunch.


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