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Pakistani minister urges opposition leaders to back off their demand for PM's resignation

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ISLAMABAD — A Cabinet minister has urged Pakistan's two key opposition figures leading mass rallies outside parliament to back off their demand for the prime minister's resignation in ongoing talks with the government.

Railways Minister Saad Rafiq says the two opposition leaders — cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan and fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri — should not insist on Nawaz Sharif stepping down.

PHOTO: Supporters of Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan rally in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Thousands of Imran Khan's and Muslim  cleric Tahir-ul- Qadri's supporters are besieging parliament in the capital to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
Supporters of Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan rally in Karachi, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 25, 2014. Thousands of Imran Khan's and Muslim cleric Tahir-ul- Qadri's supporters are besieging parliament in the capital to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)

Rafiq says authorities want a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Tens of thousands of Khan and Qadri supporters have been rallying for nearly two weeks in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, demanding Sharif resign over alleged election fraud.

Government negotiators are trying to convince the two to end their protest.

Rafiq on Wednesday also urged Qadri to withdraw his 48-hour "deadline," which expires later in the day and which the cleric set for Sharif's resignation.

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