ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reacted this morning to Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf’s promise to hold elections by January and to step down from the army.
"My reaction is that the positive element here, that the elections are going to be held and held very soon, and also that the president said he was going to take off his uniform, these have both been essential to getting Pakistan back on a democratic path," Rice told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive "This Week" interview.
However, Musharraf also insisted this morning that the state of emergency which he imposed in Pakistan last week would remain in place.
And although Rice noted that “obviously, we are also encouraging that the state of emergency has got to be lifted, and lifted as soon as possible,” she reiterated Pakistan’s role as an ally in the war against terror.
"This is a country that’s going through extraordinarily difficult circumstances. But it is an ally, it is a friend. And we believe that at a time like this, our best role is to counsel and indeed persuade that Pakistan has got to get back on the democratic path that it had established," she said.
Rice went on to clarify that the U.S. interest in Pakistan is not vested in Musharraf. "This is not a personal matter about President Musharraf. This is about the Pakistani people, and the United States has been dedicated to helping the Pakistani people come to a more democratic path."
Addressing increasing concerns on Capitol Hill over U.S. aid to Pakistan, the Secretary said "we’re certainly reviewing our aid in terms of statutory requirements." Since 2001 the U.S. has provided roughly $10 billion in aid to Pakistan. Rice reiterated that such aid was intended to counter terrorism. "I don’t think anyone wants the president to do anything that would compromise the counter-terrorism mission, which in fact goes to the training of Pakistani forces to be able to deal with extremism," she said.