Islamabad, Pakistan — President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government dismissed a last-ditch U.S. call to end emergency rule, leaving the Bush administration with limited options Sunday in steering its nuclear-armed ally back toward democracy.
Pakistan said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte brought no new proposals on a make-or-break visit, and received no assurances after urging Musharraf to restore the constitution and free thousands of political opponents.
"This is nothing new," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq told The Associated Press. "The U.S. has been saying this for many days. He (Negroponte) has said that same thing. He has reiterated it."
Locked in a battle with increasingly powerful Islamist militants, Pakistan is seen as a key front in the war on terror. U.S. officials are clearly fearful that the emergency rule imposed more than two weeks ago could lead to a potentially destabilizing round of political turmoil.
In an early morning news conference before departing Pakistan, Negroponte said he hoped that the president listened to his appeal to end a crackdown on opponents before legislative elections scheduled for January.
"I urged the government to stop such actions, lift the state of emergency and release all political detainees," Negroponte told reporters at the U.S. Embassy. "Emergency rule is not compatible with free, fair and credible elections."
But Musharraf has appeared intent on setting his own pace despite warnings from Washington, which has been hesitant to match criticism with actions such as cutting military aid.