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Pakistan's Bhutto Says Charges Against Her Remain, Talks With Musharraf Stall


Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto says there is no agreement on granting her amnesty from corruption charges and that power-sharing talks with Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf are totally stalled. The stalemate comes just days before the presidential election and, as Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad, could lead to Bhutto's party joining protests against the government.

The exiled former Prime Minister told journalists in London on Wednesday that a minister's suggestion the government would drop corruption charges against her was "disinformation" made up by Pakistani authorities.

Ms. Bhutto has been in self-imposed exile for eight years since she was charged with corruption in connection with her time as prime minister.

Pakistan's Railways Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, said Tuesday the cabinet and ruling party are prepared to grant Ms. Bhutto amnesty to try to win her party's support in Saturday's presidential election. But, there was no official announcement of any offer nor confirmation from Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.

Ms. Bhutto says months-long talks with General Musharraf on a power-sharing deal are now at an impasse because he refuses to give a timeline for meeting her requirements. Among them: a key demand to give up his post as head of the military before the election.

"He's not prepared to do that, he's not prepared to give a full immunity bill, he's not prepared to lift the ban on a twice elected Prime Minister, he's not prepared to bring about election reforms that are necessary for a fair election, he's not prepared to bring about a balance in the power between the presidency and the prime minister," she said. "He's prepared to say that all this will be done at some indefinite, indeterminate future time.

General Musharraf came to power in a 1999 military coup and has been under pressure to restore civilian rule. But, he appears hesitant to give up the reigns of power. He has promised to give up his military post to a newly-appointed successor, but not until after he wins reelection to another five-year term as president.

General Musharraf lost considerable public support this year because of a failed attempt to fire the chief justice of the Supreme Court for allowing challenges to his continued rule. However, he is expected to win reelection.

Pakistan's Supreme Court began last-minute hearings Wednesday on petitions challenging General Musharraf's right to run for president. The high court dismissed similar petitions last week.

On Tuesday, more than 80 opposition legislators resigned in protest against Mr. Musharraf's reelection bid, which they say is unconstitutional.

Ms. Bhutto says her party may join in the resignations and protest in the streets if the ruling party does not come up with an acceptable power-sharing deal.

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