U.S. Distances itself from long time Middle East leader

by Brooke Hart
NBC News

Under fire at home and abroad, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf held his first news conference since the crisis began.

He announced elections will take place before January ninth, likely still under emergency rule.

"It will ensure absolutely fair and transparent elections," said Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the election date is positive but not enough, and noticeably distanced the U.S. from its strong anti-terror ally.

"This is not a personal matter about President Musharraf.  This is about the Pakistani people, and the United States has been dedicated to helping the Pakistani people come to a more democratic path," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Analysts say U.S. goals in the region depend on it.

"What you and I as Americans have to worry about is 25,000 U.S. combat troops and another 20,000 NATO troops up in Afghanistan. It is unsustainable as a presence if we can't get logistics through Port of Karachi and Pakistan's airspace," said General Barry McCaffrey, U.S. Army Retired.

In Pakistan, local T.V. journalists protested Musharraf's news conference.

His crackdown has taken their stations off the air.

The government also announced that military courts could now prosecute civilians.

To Pakistanis, this is seen as a further tightening of the government's grip.

For the moment, the administration appears to be building its options, potentially leaning on Musharraf directly this week, and talking to his rivals.