( AFP ) - US President George W. Bush on Monday urged Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf to lift a state of emergency, quit as army chief, and hold elections soon -- but left unclear whether US aid hung in the balance.
Asked what he would do if Musharraf spurns such advice, Bush replied: "All we can do is continue to work with the president, as well as others in the Pak government, to make it abundantly clear the position of the United States."
"And then obviously we'll deal with it if something other than that happens," the US president said, breaking his silence on the crisis as he met at the White House with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With Washington unable to convince Musharraf last week not to go ahead with the crackdown, Bush strongly pushed the nuclear-armed ally in the US war on terror to reverse course and push ahead with elections set for January.
"We expect there to be elections as soon as possible, and that the president should remove his military uniform," Bush said. "Our hope is that he will restore democracy as quickly as possible."
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered the same message to Musharraf by telephone from her official aircraft as she left the Middle East, her spokesman Sean McCormack said, offering no specific details.
The White House said Washington's assistance to Pakistan was "under review" -- in part to assess whether Musharraf's move triggered any automatic freeze on some forms of aid -- but strongly suggested that there would be no reduction.
And one senior Bush aide, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said Musharraf was expected to let the world know within about a week how he would proceed and pleaded for patience.
"In our judgment, he's made a mistake," the official said.
"The question is: What do you do when someone makes that mistake that is a close ally? You know, do you cut him off, hit him with sanctions, walk out the door? Or do you try and see if you can work them to get them back on track?" the official said.
"The president's guidance to us is see if we can work with them to get back on track," said the official, who called aid cuts "a card that has to be played fairly carefully."
Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, cited growing Islamic extremism and hostile judges for imposing emergency rule on Saturday over the nuclear-armed nation of 160 million people.
He suspended the constitution, sacked the country's top judge and instituted strict media curbs.
"We're urging that those people be allowed out of prison and that the press be allowed to report on what they're seeing, and that the television stations be restored," said Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino.
The Supreme Court had been poised to rule imminently on the legality of Musharraf's victory in an October 6 presidential election, and government jitters over the upcoming decision are widely thought to have precipitated emergency rule.
The move threw the country's political future into chaos, jeopardizing general elections scheduled for January 2008 and putting in question Musharraf's previous promises to quit his dual role as army chief.
Musharraf spokesman Rashid Qureshi said the January elections would take place "as close as possible to the schedule," and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was more categorical, telling state media: "The next general elections will be held according to the schedule."
Pakistan has received more than 10 billion dollars in US military assistance since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
The United States also has had thousands of troops stationed in neighboring Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban in late 2001.
After the emergency decree, influential US senators from both main parties took the Bush administration to task for its continued support of Musharraf, with some noting that despite his hardline rule, Al-Qaeda had regrouped along Pakistan's borders.