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Asian Leaders Express Concerns About Pakistan's Future


Leaders across Asia are voicing condemnation and shock over the killing of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, and their fears for the future stability of the country. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.

Condemnations and expressions of shock have poured from just about every nation in the region.

India, as Pakistan's neighbor and traditional foe, has a special stake in Pakistan's stability. It has strongly condemned the assassination as a setback to the Pakistani democratic process and to regional stability. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised Ms. Bhutto, recalling that, during her time as Prime Minister, she worked to improve relations between the two historic adversaries.

"She, on more than one occasion, gave expression to her feelings that relations between our two countries should be normalized and that we should work together to make South Asia a prosperous region of the world," recalled Prime Minister Singh.

Another of Pakistan's neighbors, China, expressed shock at the killing. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Beijing extends its condolences to the families of Ms. Bhutto and other victims of the attack Thursday.

Japanese Foreign Minister Mashiko Komura said Japan firmly condemns what the official described as a "despicable and unforgivable act of terror," which he said was aimed at destroying, through violence, Pakistan's efforts to hold a fair and democratic election.

South Korea's foreign ministry said the South Korean government could not hide its shock over the killing and hopes Pakistan will be stabilized by peaceful means.

The governments of Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia expressed similar condemnations. In a statement Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi called the assassination "a cruel act" and said, "the perpetrators must be brought to justice."

News of the assassination triggered a downturn in markets across the region Friday as concern grew about instability in Pakistan in the wake of the killing and the future direction of the country.

Those concerns were echoed by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who condemned Ms. Bhutto's assassination as a blow against peace in Pakistan. "This is an attack on the democracy of Pakistan. This is an attack on the stability of Pakistan," he said. "This is an attack on the forces of moderation of Pakistan. This assassination is an evil act, it's a cowardly act."

The Australian leader said it is his hope that a democratic Pakistan will be Benazir Bhutto's legacy, and he praised what he said was her "great courage and defiance in her resistance to extremism."

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed shock. In a statement conveyed through a spokesman, he said he hopes the Pakistani government will do what it can to prevent further bloodshed in what he said is "already a very polarized and fragile political and security environment."

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