WASHINGTON President Bush personally told Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf Wednesday that he must hold parliamentary elections and relinquish his post as head of his country's army.
"You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time," Bush said, describing a telephone call with Musharraf. "I had a very frank discussion with him."
Bush revealed the call to Musharraf during an appearance at Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of George Washington, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Since Musharraf declared emergency rule on Saturday, the White House has faced repeated questions about why Bush was taking a relatively soft line against the crackdown and had not spoken directly to the Pakistani leader, a man he has previously called a friend he trusts.
"My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform," Bush said.
Sarkozy agreed with Bush on the need "to have elections as quickly as possible" in Pakistan.
Careful not to go too far in rebuking a close anti-terrorism ally, the Bush administration's response to Musharraf's actions has been mild and measured. It stands in sharp contrast to the administration's tougher stance taken when Myanmar's military regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in September, for instance.
"There is a difference," Bush said. "Pakistan has been on the path to democracy. Burma hasn't been on the path to democracy. It requires different tactics to achieve the common objective."