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Report: Pakistan's Musharraf to Step Down; Spokesman Denies

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Aug. 13: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addresses a ceremony to mark the country's Independence Day.AP

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has decided to step down, the Financial Times cites top aides have said.

A "senior officer in Mr. Musharraf's camp" reportedly told the Financial Times that he wished to avoid impeachment likely to begin next week.

The report comes as a senior leader in Pakistan's new ruling coalition said Musharraf should not receive legal immunity, ramping up pressure on the leader.

But Musharraf spokesman Rashid Qureshi denied Friday that the president was set to resign or was seeking legal immunity to do so.

Musharraf has resisted calls to quit, and his rivals say they could introduce an impeachment motion in Parliament as early as Monday. Speculation persists that Musharraf may be holding out for guarantees he will not face criminal charges if he resigns.

On Thursday, during a speech to celebrate Pakistan's Independence Day, the beleaguered former army chief called for reconciliation, but made no mention of the moves against him.

"I appeal to all elements to adopt an approach of reconciliation so that there is political stability and we can firmly confront the real problems facing the country," Musharraf said.

But in his own Independence Day address, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose party is a member of the ruling coalition, ruled out a "safe passage" for Musharraf.

Sharif, who Musharraf pushed out of power in a 1999 coup, alleged the president had violated the constitution and compromised the nation's sovereignty, a reference to Musharraf's alliance with the U.S. in the war on terror.

"Should safe passage be given to someone who has done this to Pakistan?" Sharif asked a crowd in the eastern city of Lahore. "He wants safe passage by breaking Pakistan's law. He wants safe passage by breaking Pakistan's Constitution. He is asking for safe passage by selling out Pakistan's sovereignty."

After his coup, Musharraf dominated Pakistan for years, but eventually grew increasingly unpopular. Many Pakistanis blamed rising violence in their country on his partnership with the United States in the fight against extremism.

In February, his rivals — including those in Sharif's party — defeated his allies in parliamentary elections, forming a ruling coalition that has shunted him aside and now wants to impeach and oust him.

As a prelude, three of Pakistan's four provincial assemblies passed resolutions this week denouncing Musharraf and urging him to seek votes of confidence or resign. The resolutions have accused Musharraf of violating the constitution and gross misconduct.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.