WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Saturday said it was disappointed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule and called on him to stick to a pledge to hold free elections early next year.
"This action is very disappointing," White House National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
"President Musharraf needs to stand by his pledges to have free and fair elections in January and step down as chief of army staff before retaking the presidential oath of office," Johndroe added.
Musharraf imposed emergency rule on Saturday in a bid to reassert his flagging authority against challenges from Islamist militants, a hostile judiciary and political rivals.
"All parties involved should move along the democratic path peacefully and quickly," Johndroe said.
Earlier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, while on a visit to Turkey, said she was "deeply disturbed" by Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule, calling it a step backward for democracy.
"The U.S. has made very clear that it does not support extra-constitutional measures as they would take Pakistan away from the path of democracy and civilian rule," Rice told reporters as she was taking off from Turkey.
"We will be urging the commitment to hold free and fair elections be kept and we will be urging calm on all parties," she said.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan's internal security has deteriorated sharply in the past few months with a wave of suicide attacks by al Qaeda-inspired militants, including one last month that killed 139 people.