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Pakistan military says its supports government

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s military supports the country’s civilian government, the army spokesman said Saturday in an apparent response to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that show the country’s top general had considered removing the president from power.

The memos released by WikiLeaks reveal serious concerns about the Pakistani government led by President Asif Ali Zardari. Weighed down by corruption allegations, Zardari has been hounded by the opposition, the media and the army, which remains the real power center in the U.S.-allied nation.

This February, former U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson wrote in one cable that Pakistan’s civilian government “remains weak, ineffectual and corrupt. Domestic politics is dominated by uncertainty about the fate of President Zardari.”

In March 2009, during a period of political turmoil, Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told the ambassador that he “might, however reluctantly,” pressure Zardari to resign.

The president was reportedly feeling the pressure. In 2009, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain that Zardari had told him Pakistan’s main spy chief and “Kayani will take me out.”

On Saturday, army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said the military has a “demonstrated policy of supporting the political process within the confines of the constitution of Pakistan with respect to national leadership.” He said Kayani holds all national leaders in high esteem.

Abbas did not refer specifically to the leaked documents, but was responding to a question about recent media reports on the subject.

The dozens of classified U.S. diplomatic cables about Pakistan that WikiLeaks has posted to its website are a small subset of the more than 250,000 from American missions around the world the website plans to release over the coming months.

Pakistan’s powerful military has ruled the country for more than half of its 63-year history and it has extensive influence even during periods of civilian rule.

The March 2009 document in which Kayani spoke of replacing Zardari came just months after former Gen. Pervez Musharraf left the presidency. Musharraf ruled for nine years following a bloodless coup in 1999.

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