WASHINGTON, Sept 12: US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that even though Pakistan did not have an ideal democracy it was "moving in the right direction" and now had "an empowered prime minister".

"It has got a parliament that's not quite like our Congress and these things don't happen overnight," said Mr Powell. "But I think Pakistan is moving in the right direction."

The United States, he said, has 'worked closely' with President Musharraf over the last three years to encourage democracy in Pakistan. "We have watched as the parliament starts functioning again as there is now a new empowered prime minister who we know very, very well, Prime Minister Aziz."

In interviews and statements broadcast over the weekend, Mr Powell observed that the Pakistani parliament was 'becoming fractious' but it was also "debating issues and taking positions", which he saw as a good development.

The secretary of state refuted the allegation that the US administration was not doing enough to promote democratic values in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia although lack of democracy was one of the causes for the spread of terrorism in these places.

Mr Powell also praised the freedom the Musharraf government has granted to the media but said the United States would like to see more freedom in Pakistan. "There is diversity of opinion throughout Pakistan. They have an aggressive press. But it is not yet to where we would like to see it," he said.

The United States, he said, was working with President Pervez Musharraf and encouraging him to do more. "And we are confident that Pakistan, under his leadership and now under the leadership of Prime Minister Aziz, is moving in the right direction," he said.

While encouraging Pakistan to restore more democracy, Mr Powell said the United States realized that President Musharraf also had to deal with the dangers that existed within his country. He noted that three years ago, Pakistan supported the Taliban regime and had "a very strained, estranged relationship" with the US.

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