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Bhutto Optimistic About Power-Sharing With Musharraf in Pakistan

  • Daniel Schearf

Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto has said she is optimistic she will reach a power-sharing deal with President General Pervez Musharraf, a sharp turnaround from Wednesday when she said talks were "totally stalled." The two sides have been negotiating for months. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.

Ms. Bhutto says she and General Musharraf are close to a long-awaited power-sharing deal, but she is still waiting for a final agreement in writing.

She said the step forward in just one day was due to intense discussions between the two sides.

"There have been a lot of last-minute discussions on key issues. And, as a consequence of these discussions we are expecting, we are optimistic today, but I cannot say that everything is finalized because we are still waiting to see in documentary form what is a verbal understanding between the two sides," she said.

Ms. Bhutto spoke to journalists in London where she has spent some of her eight years in exile to avoid corruption charges stemming from her time as prime minister. The comments were broadcast live on television in Pakistan.

Ms. Bhutto said the verbal understanding would likely include her demands for a blanket amnesty for former officials accused, but not convicted, of corruption, and an extension on term limits for prime minister from two to three terms.

Those requirements are key for Ms. Bhutto as she plans to return to Pakistan on October 18 and wishes to run for a third term as prime minister.

But she said the government is still resisting her demand General Musharraf give up the presidential power to dismiss the government. That power could be used against her if the deal for power-sharing goes through and she were to be re-elected prime minister.

"The balance of power between the presidency and parliament has not been resolved. We still have differences of opinion on the military introduced law for the president to remove all parliament," she said.

If her demands are met, Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party is to offer much-needed support to General Musharraf's presidency for another five years.

General Musharraf came to power in a 1999 military coup and has lost much public support since a failed attempt to fire the chief justice. He is under pressure to restore civilian rule and has promised to give up his post as chief of the army, but not until he wins re-election as president on Saturday as expected.

More than 160 Pakistani legislators have resigned in protest at General Musharraf's bid for re-election while in uniform.

Ms. Bhutto said the Pakistan People's Party would not resign from Parliament. She said the party would instead decide later either to not vote in the election or to vote for their own candidate and vice chairman of the party, Makhdoom Amin Faheem.

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