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Pakistan Asks for British Help in Bhutto Probe


Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has asked Britain help to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. In a televised speech to the nation Wednesday night, the president also said troops will be deployed to ensure security for the general elections postponed till February 18 following Bhutto's death. At the same time, Mr. Musharraf says he backs the election commission's decision to delay parliamentary elections until February 18. Ayaz Gul reports for VOA from Islamabad.

President Musharraf says that a team of British experts from Scotland Yard will shortly arrive in Pakistan to help authorities investigate the death of Benazir Bhutto, which he called a great national tragedy.

The killing of the Pakistani opposition leader has touched off a wave of deadly unrest by her supporters, who blame the government for not doing enough to ensure her security.

The Pakistani leader said the decision to seek foreign assistance was made to dispel any confusion or suspicions surrounding Ms. Bhutto's death.

Mr. Musharraf says al-Qaida linked terrorists were involved in attacks in Pakistan and he has no doubts they were behind the assassination of Ms. Bhutto.

The United States welcomed Pakistan's request for British police assistance, and said it is also ready to help. The White House on Wednesday call on all Pakistani politicians to urge their supporters to refrain from violence.

Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party has accused the government of washing away forensic evidence from the scene of the assassination and trying to cover-up its failure to protect the top politician. Some critics say the possibility of involvement of elements from within the Pakistan establishment in the assassination cannot be ruled out.

Ms. Bhutto was killed following an election rally in Rawalpindi last Thursday when an unknown attacker opened fire on her with a handgun and then blew himself up.

Speaking to reporters minutes after Musharraf's speech, Ms. Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari reiterated his demand that a United Nations commission be set up to investigate the death of his wife.

The Pakistani government has been under pressure from inside and outside the country to seek foreign assistance in the probe.

President Musharraf also defended a decision by the country's election commission to postpone next week's parliamentary elections until February 18. He said that in the wake of bloody protests and tensions triggered by Ms. Bhutto's killing, army and paramilitary forces will be deployed to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.

Opposition parties, including Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party, have condemned the decision to delay the polls but they say they will take part in the elections.

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