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Bush Condemns Bhutto Assassination


President Bush has condemned the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. VOA correspondent Paula Wolfson reports from the White House.

President Bush says those responsible for the murder of Benazir Bhutto must be brought to justice.

"The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy," he said.

In a brief statement to reporters at his Texas ranch, the president said the murder of Benazir Bhutto shows the ruthless nature of the terrorist threat.

"She knew that her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk. Yet she refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country," he noted.

Bhutto was assassinated as she left a campaign rally in Rawalpindi. The former prime minister had become a leader of the political opposition, and was challenging the government of President Pervez Musharraf.

Her death came just two weeks before legislative elections that were almost derailed by a state of emergency imposed in November, and lifted on December 16.

President Bush urged Pakistanis to keep the country on a democratic path.

"We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism," the president said. "We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life."

Bhutto served as prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996. A homecoming rally marking her return from exile in mid-October gave a dramatic reminder of the dangers that would lie ahead - a suicide bomb attack that left more than 140 people dead.

In Pakistan, President Musharraf has declared a three-day period of mourning. In a statement following the assassination, he urged calm and vowed to hunt down the killers.

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