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Bhutto's Son Warns Pakistan Could Disintegrate

The son of slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has warned that his country could face disintegration unless free and fair elections are held. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

It was Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's first full news conference since he took over leadership of the Pakistan People's Party, following the assassination of his mother, Benazir Bhutto, last month.

Speaking to reporters in London, he said he fears for what might happen to Pakistan.

"I fear for my country. I fear that if free and fair elections are not held, it may disintegrate," he said.

Elections in Pakistan have been postponed until February 18, following Benazir Bhutto's assassination and the ensuing unrest. She was on the campaign trail when she was killed December 27 in Rawalpindi.

The Pakistani government has blamed al-Qaida for the assassination and has called in British law enforcement agencies to help with the investigation.

That, says Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, is not enough.

"The family and the party's request is for a U.N.-sponsored investigation because we do not believe that an investigation, which is under the authority of the Pakistani government, has the necessary transparency."

Bhutto-Zardari is 19-years-old, and after a brief visit to Pakistan following his mother's death, he will live in Britain as a student at Oxford University. He acknowledged he has no political experience and said he would step into his role as party chairman carefully and gradually.

Benazir Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari is running the day-to-day operations of the party as it prepares to contest parliamentary elections next month.

The assassination of Ms. Bhutto raised an outcry around the world along with concerns about the stability of Pakistan and the government of President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the war against terror.

The United States has called for fair and orderly elections to take place. During a news conference, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown repeated a similar demand.

"It is important that the Pakistani elections are free and are fair, and that everything is done to show the international community that all the barriers and obstacles that existed a few weeks ago to there being free and fair elections have been removed," said Brown.

Mr. Brown also said Britain remains adamant the elections must be properly monitored to ensure a fair vote.