Commonwealth defends Pakistan suspension

KAMPALA, Nov 23, 2007 (AFP) – The Commonwealth defended its decision to suspend Pakistan on Friday as leaders from 53-nation grouping opened a summit in Uganda and shifted the focus to climate change and other issues. Islamabad reacted angrily to Thursday’s suspension, describing the decision as “unreasonable and unjustified” and threatened to pull out from the loose federation of mostly former British colonies.

“In these circumstances, you can be assured that every country that has been suspended will say that we didn’t understand the unique circumstances that prevailed in their country at the time,” Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon said. “We think we did.”

An ultimatum set by the Commonwealth this month for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to step down as army chief, free judges and opposition supporters, and lift media curbs expired on Thursday.

McKinnon said there had been differences within the nine-country ministerial committee that decided to suspend Pakistan, notably objections from Sri Lanka, but stressed the move was the result of consensus.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse expressed “strong objections” to the move, his office in Colombo said, while diplomatic sources