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Musharraf set for re-election

The Baltimore Sun

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Election officials said yesterday that President Pervez Musharraf would seek re-election by lawmakers to a five-year term Oct. 6, even though his bid is clouded by legal challenges.

The announcement of the date for elections came as the Supreme Court heard another day of arguments from opponents seeking to have the Pakistani leader disqualified from standing for office while serving as army chief. It also came as al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden issued a new audiotape calling on Pakistanis to rise up against the president's rule.

Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks became a key U.S. ally against the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Pakistani officials have not said publicly whether the general will abide by the Supreme Court's ruling, expected in the next few days.

The vote for president is to be held by lawmakers from the national and provincial assemblies, which Musharraf controls. Some opposition parties have said they will boycott the vote.

The 64-year-old general presents himself as a bulwark against Islamic extremism, a stance that might have been bolstered by new threats against him from bin Laden and the al-Qaida leader's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In the tape released yesterday, bin Laden exhorts Pakistanis to take vengeance against Musharraf's regime for July's storming of the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad by government troops. More than 100 people died.

Laura King writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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