IHT : Negroponte: Pakistan's political process is "derailed"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Negroponte: Pakistan's political process is "derailed"

The Associated Press | November 15, 2007

BAMAKO, Mali: On the eve of his departure to Pakistan, the U.S. deputy secretary of state on Thursday called the political process there "derailed."

John Negroponte, who was in Mali finishing a diplomatic tour of Africa before heading to Pakistan, said he planned to meet with Pakistan's political leadership in order to bring "the political process back on track."

He is expected to leave Mali Thursday night for Pakistan, where the political situation is worsening following President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule. Negroponte is expected to demand Musharraf end emergency rule and free thousands of his political opponents.

"The political process in Pakistan has been derailed. Our message is that we want to work with the government and people of Pakistan and the political actors in Pakistan to put the political process back on track as soon as possible," Negroponte said.

At a meeting with local Malian journalists, Negroponte also assured Mali that the United States had no plans to establish a permanent military base in the landlocked, West African nation.

In September, rebels armed with machine opened fire on a U.S. plane in the country's troubled north. The plane was ferrying food supplies to a Malian military outpost, and the incident sparked debate about the U.S. presence in Mali.

That presence consists of training and joint exercises intended to fight terrorism in the vast, unoccupied spaces of the Sahara Desert, said Negroponte.

"But we are certainly not seeking any kind of military bases or military presence by the United States in the area," he said.

Though Mali is often called one of the most stable countries in West Africa, its northeastern desert region was the launching point for a 1990s Tuareg rebellion, and a resurgence of clashes has once again made the region volatile with numerous kidnappings and attacks on military and government targets.