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Pakistan opposition leader suspends talks with government as supporters besiege parliament

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's famous cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan says he has suspended talks with the government after it appointed a new police chief in the capital Islamabad for an expected crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Thousands of Khan's supporters are besieging parliament for a second day Thursday to pressure Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign over alleged election fraud.

PHOTO: Police forces deploy outside the secretariat block in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters entered Islamabad's high-security "Red Zone" the night before, five days after arriving in the capital. Pakistan’s powerful army chief Gen. Rasheel Sharif asked the government to hold negotiations with protesters to settle a mass demonstration outside parliament, officials said. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
Police forces deploy outside the secretariat block in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. Tens of thousands of protesters entered Islamabad's high-security "Red Zone" the night before, five days after arriving in the capital. Pakistan’s powerful army chief Gen. Rasheel Sharif asked the government to hold negotiations with protesters to settle a mass demonstration outside parliament, officials said. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

Protesters led by Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri tore down barricades late Tuesday and entered the so-called Red Zone that houses key government buildings.

Their representatives held talks with the government early Thursday after Pakistan's powerful army chief, Gen. Rasheel Sharif, requested that Sharif's government negotiate with the protesters.

The protests have raised tensions in the nuclear-armed U.S. ally, which has a long history of political turmoil and military dictatorships.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Female supporters of anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri react to his speech during a protest in front of the Parliament building, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. Pakistani officials held "initial" talks before dawn Thursday with representatives from two opposition groups whose supporters have been besieging the parliament for a second day demanding the prime minister resign over alleged election fraud, the government said. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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