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U.S. envoy meets with Pakistani leader

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  • NEW: U.S. envoy Negroponte meets with President Musharraf Saturday
  • Negroponte was expected strongly urge Musharraf to end emergency decree
  • Musharraf has not shown any indication that he will take the American advice
  • Opposition leader Bhutto does not think president will listen to U.S. demands
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for two hours Saturday in a bid to urge the president to help stabilize the growing unrest in his country.

The U.S. envoy was expected to deliver a strong message of growing impatience from the United States, urging Musharraf to end his emergency decree and prepare for free elections.

So far, Musharraf has not shown any indication he will take the American advice.

Musharraf, who issued the emergency order on November 3, swore in seven hand-picked allies into a caretaker government on Friday despite an earlier pledge to include "people of a neutral band."

Negroponte was expected to warn Musharraf during the meeting that his base was rapidly eroding and unless he lifts the state of emergency, takes off the uniform and sets a date for elections, there would be little the United States could do to help.

The U.S. envoy was expected to push for a specific date for elections and a commitment to lift the emergency before then, officials said.

Negroponte also met with Army Vice Chair Ashfaq Kiani, who is expected to take Musharraf's place as head of the military, which holds a lot of influence over Musharraf.

U.S. State Department officials said the meeting was a way to apply pressure on Musharraf and that the United States may appeal to the army to help solve the crisis.

Officials said Negroponte would continue to push Musharraf for a deal with opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and see what it would take for a deal to go forward, as it represents the greatest chances for stability in Pakistan.

Bhutto, who spoke by phone with Negroponte after his arrival in Pakistan on Friday, reiterated her call for Musharraf to step down as president, pledging to "mount public pressure" against him.

A State Department official said Bhutto asked Negroponte to use U.S. aid as leverage to force Musharraf to meet her demands.

U.S. State Department spokesman Scott McCormack said that Negroponte discussed with Bhutto "the importance of moderate forces working together in Pakistan for a better future for Pakistan, and also to get Pakistan back on the pathway to constitutional and democratic rule."

"Our hope is -- for Pakistan and for the Pakistani people -- that Pakistan can resume that course," he said in Washington. "In order to do that, it's our assessment that those moderate forces within Pakistani political society are going to need to work together, not only to get back to that point where you have constitutional democratic rule, but for the day after and the day after that."

Bhutto, speaking to PBS' "New Hour with Jim Lehrer" prior to her conversation with Negroponte, said that a request from the American diplomat to "get back on track with Musharraf" would not be granted.

"I've spent 18 months talking to General Musharraf," the former prime minister said. And at the last minute, he dumped the road map to democracy and went back to military dictatorship. And I ask myself, does he simply want to engage me in talks, which will again lead nowhere?"

Saying Musharraf's promises have been "too vague, too generalized, too little, too late, raising hopes, dashing them, raising hopes, dashing them," she said that Negroponte should "discuss an exit strategy" with the Pakistani president.

"He's not a bad man," she said. "He's not an unreasonable man. I've met him. I've talked to him. So he must think of Pakistan now. And if it's in Pakistan's best interest, he must quit. But there needs to be a post-Musharraf order worked out."

Bhutto, whose two stints as prime minister were plagued with accusations of corruption, said it was "unlikely" her Pakistan Peoples' Party's participation would participate in coming parliamentary elections, which Musharraf has promised will take place before January 9.

If Musharraf does not step down, she said, her party would "mount public pressure, to end martial law, and return Pakistan to its rightful masters, who are the people of this great nation."

Meanwhile, Musharraf swore in his new cabinet Friday, setting in place the caretaker government that will oversee Pakistan's parliamentary process until the elections can be held.

"An old cabinet is gone and a new cabinet -- a caretaker government -- has been sworn in," Musharraf said.

The event, carried live on Pakistani state-run TV, showed the new members taking an oath to "bear true faith" to Pakistan, among other pledges.

"Life continues, no body is permanent," Musharraf said. "One comes, one serves, tries one's best in the interest of the nation ... and then when they have to go that is the way of nature, they have to leave and this is what is democracy."

The interim cabinet is led by newly installed Prime Minister Mohammad Mian Soomro, who previously served as chairman of the Senate -- a key post because the Senate chairman is acting president when Musharraf is outside the country.

"We are creating history because I think never has Pakistan seen such a smooth transition of government," Musharraf said after the official ceremony. "The ex-prime minister is sitting right in front of us. Never has such a smooth transition taken place before.

Thursday marked the end of the term for Pakistan's parliament and provincial assemblies, which are scheduled to dissolve by November 20, according to Musharraf.

Musharraf's term was set to end Thursday, but the military leader remained at the helm via extraordinary powers granted through the emergency declaration that extends his presidential term.

Musharraf has pledged to take off the uniform when he is sworn in to his third term as president.

Earlier this month, Musharraf replaced a number of Supreme Court justices with his allies after sacking nearly all of them in the name of the emergency order imposed, he said, to tackle Islamic militancy and save Pakistan from governmental paralysis caused by a meddling judiciary.

He has said the order improves stability and will foster peaceful parliamentary elections. The exact date for the elections will be set by Pakistan's Election Commission.

Bhutto and other opposition leaders have accused Musharraf of imposing the emergency order so he could remain in power by avoiding an expected ruling from the previous Supreme Court that would have nullified his October election victory.

Nearly all leaders of Pakistani opposition parties have been jailed or placed under house arrest, and charged under anti-terrorism measures. Bhutto herself was placed twice under house arrest, most recently released Friday morning.

Also Friday, two top Pakistani television networks were ordered off the air by authorities in Dubai, where the network's transmission originates. GEO-TV and ARY Digital had already been taken out of Pakistan's cable line-up, but the latest action means their signal is no long available by satellite.

"This was basically our window to the world, GEO President Imran Aslan said. "In Pakistan, we've been shut down since the 3rd."


The action was not wholly unexpected, but surprising nevertheless, Aslan said.

"We uplink from Dubai, never having had a license to uplink from Pakistan," he said. "Dubai is a media city which seemed to be a haven and a sanctuary." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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