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Pakistan's Foreign Minister Presses UN for Bhutto Inquiry


Pakistan's foreign minister was at the United Nations Thursday lobbying the secretary-general and powerful member states to support his government's request for an independent commission to investigate the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon Thursday afternoon to discuss his government's request, which was made early last month.

In it, the Pakistani government asked for an independent commission of inquiry to be established to identify the "culprits, perpetrators, organizers and financiers" of Mrs. Bhutto's assassination last December. She was killed in a suicide attack during an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

In a read-out of the meeting, Mr. Ban's office said the U.N. chief had "responded positively" to the request, but said further consultations with Pakistan and others within the U.N. would be necessary.

But both Qureshi and the secretary-general's office said a "broad understanding" had been reached on some major issues. The Pakistani minister listed them for reporters.

"Broad understanding has been reached on the following issues - the nature of the proposed commission, funding modalities, composition of the commission, unhindered access to all sources of relevant information and elements to safeguard the objectivity, impartiality and independence of the commission," said Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Mr. Ban held a news conference on a wide array of subjects earlier in the day. When asked whether he had made any decision about an investigation commission he was non-committal and said he would discuss several points at length with the Pakistani minister.

While at the United Nations, Minister Qureshi said he also met with representatives of the permanent five members of the Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia. Although he indicated that it would not be necessary for the secretary-general to refer this matter to the council and that the U.N. chief could appoint the future commission.

On Friday, Qureshi travels to Washington, where he is scheduled to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior administration officials, as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

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