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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Bhutto Assassination Condemned by World Leaders

27 December 2007

Bush also urges continued progress toward democracy in Pakistan

Washington -- President Bush joined world leaders in shocked condemnation of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and called for continued progress toward democratic reforms in Pakistan.

“The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy,” Bush told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.  “Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice.”

Bhutto was killed at a December 27 political rally after addressing thousands of supporters in a park in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, ahead of January 8, 2008, parliamentary elections. She was killed by a suicide bomber who reportedly shot her at close range then detonated explosives, killing at least 15 other people and injuring several others.

Bhutto was no stranger to death threats.  The December 27 attack was the second attempt on Bhutto’s life since she returned to Pakistan from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, October 18 to lead her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) -- the country’s largest opposition group -- in elections.  She blamed extremist groups for the suicide attack on her supporters in Karachi the same day that killed 134 people.

“She knew the risks of her return to campaign but was convinced that her country needed her,” said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.   

“In targeting Benazir Bhutto, extremist groups have in their sights all those committed to democratic processes in Pakistan,” Miliband added.  “They cannot and must not succeed.”

The Muslim world’s first democratically elected female leader, Bhutto was educated at Harvard University in Massachusetts and the University of Oxford in Great Britain and served twice as prime minister, from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 to 1996.  She followed in the footsteps of her father, PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who served as both president and prime minister before being deposed in a 1977 coup.  After spending five years in prison, Bhutto left for London, where she organized her first political campaign.

Bhutto's October 18 return to Pakistan in a power-sharing agreement with Musharraf was part of an effort to restore democracy in a country considered a key entity in the international struggle against terrorism.

“Benazir Bhutto may have been killed by terrorists, but the terrorists must not be allowed to kill democracy in Pakistan,” said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  “This atrocity strengthens our resolve that terrorists will not win there, here, or anywhere in the world.”

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, himself the target of several assassination attempts, condemned the attack, calling for a three-day period of national mourning.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had just met with Bhutto during his visit to Pakistan, praised Bhutto as a “daughter of Pakistan,” and condemned her assassins as “enemies of prosperity, of peace, and the well-being of Pakistan and the Muslim world.”

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

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “We urge the Pakistani people, political leaders, and civil society to maintain calm and to work together to build a more moderate, peaceful, and democratic future.”

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the attack “shows that there are people out there who are trying to disrupt the building of democracy in Pakistan.”

In a letter to Musharraf, French President Nicolas Sarkozy echoed Brown, condemning Bhutto’s assassination as an “odious act” and declaring that “terrorism and violence have no place in the democratic debate and the combat of ideas and programs.”

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi agreed, memorializing Bhutto as “a woman who chose to fight her battle until the end with a single weapon -- the one of dialogue and political debate.”

“The difficult path toward peace and democracy in that region must not be stopped, and Bhutto's sacrifice will serve as the strongest example for those who do not surrender to terrorism,” Prodi said.

Earlier in the day, at least four people were killed ahead of another election rally staged outside Rawalpindi by supporters of another prominent opposition figure, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

“We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle with the forces of terror and extremism,” Bush said.  “We urge them to honor Benazir Bhutto’s memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life.”

The full texts of statements by President Bush and Secretary Rice  are available on USINFO.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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