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World Leaders Condemn Bhutto Assassination

Leaders from around the world have condemned the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. VOA Senior Correspondent André de Nesnera has more in this report from Washington.

U.S. President George Bush described Benazir Bhutto's assassination as a cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy. And he urged the Pakistanis to keep the country on a democratic path.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the subcontinent has lost an outstanding leader who worked for democracy and reconciliation in her country.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who held talks with Ms. Bhutto just hours before she was killed, said he was shocked by the development.

"I met with her this morning. I found her to be a very, very brave woman with a clear vision for her country, for Afghanistan and for the region - a vision of democracy and prosperity and peace," he said.

Ms. Bhutto was killed in a suicide attack as she left an election rally of her Pakistan's People's Party in the city of Rawalpindi.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy called the attack an odious act. And British Foreign Secretary David Milliband urged the Pakistanis to exercise restraint and work for unity.

Karl Inderfurth, former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Affairs in the Clinton administration, described Ms. Bhutto as a courageous woman.

"I attended a small dinner for her in Washington just prior to her return to Pakistan in October and a good part of the conversation that we had then was about her personal safety," he said. "And she was just absolutely determined to go back, even though she knew that there were great risks involved."

Inderfurth says Ms. Bhutto represented a part of Pakistan's democratic landscape.

"She has been twice prime minister, twice removed as prime minister, there were charges of corruption and in her administration and with her husband who was a Pakistani senator. But you cannot look at Pakistan in any fashion without taking the Bhutto family and of course Benazir Bhutto, into account."

Christine Fair, a Pakistan expert with the RAND Corporation, says when talking about Benazir Bhutto, one has to look at what she represented before her death and what she represents from this day onward.

Fair says before her assassination, she wasn't terribly revered, widely respected or supported.

"Quite the contrary. During her two tenures as prime minister, she disgraced herself, both because her husband has become synonymous with corruption and greed, but she also has numerous court cases scattered across European capitals as well as in Pakistan on various kinds of corruption. Now the Pakistani charges were dropped," said Fair.

Fair says with Ms. Bhutto's death, everything has changed.

"Now, of course, today - she's a martyr. She's a martyr for politics in Pakistan and she's a martyr for women. Women have borne the brunt of the Islamization of Pakistan," she added.

Ms. Bhutto was killed as she campaigned for national elections scheduled January 8. Fair says Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf needs those elections to be seen as free and fair.

"To sort of legitimize what he's done over the last several years and to provide him with political cover to continue on as president with or without,obviously without, his uniform. So I think it is going to be impossible now for Musharraf to legitimize himself and his government in what he'd like to do. I think increasingly calls from an expanding number of quarters are going to be demanding that Musharraf go," added Christine Fair.

That, says Fair is, going to place those countries who have supported Mr. Musharraf - such as the United States - in a bind. Because in Fair's view, these countries have no plans in place if Pervez Musharraf were to leave the Pakistani political scene.