U.S.' Pelosi questions Pakistan's Bhutto probe

Sat Dec 29, 2007 9:49pm EST

WASHINGTON Dec 29 (Reuters) - Washington should address "troubling questions" about Pakistan's probe of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's assassination and its cooperation in fighting terrorism before extending any more aid, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Saturday.

Pelosi called for an international investigation into the Dec. 27 assassination of Bhutto, which Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's government has blamed on al Qaeda.

Bhutto's party dismissed the government account, saying Musharraf's administration, a close ally in U.S. President George W. Bush's war against terrorism, was trying to cover up its failure to protect her.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said U.S. law made assistance to Pakistan conditional on Islamabad's cooperation in the war against terrorism.

"The refusal by the Musharraf government to accept international assistance with the investigation of the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto, and recent reports that previous U.S. aid to Pakistan has been misspent, raise troubling questions about whether those conditions are being met," she said in a statement.

"These questions must be addressed by the Bush administration before any additional U.S. aid is sent to the Musharraf government."

The Republican U.S. president had encouraged Musharraf and Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan in October after years of self-imposed exile, to agree on a power-sharing deal in the hopes of stabilizing the nuclear-armed Islamic country.

Bush has urged Pakistanis to honor Bhutto's memory by going ahead with elections set for Jan. 8, but a White House spokesman said on Saturday it was up to the Pakistani authorities to determine the timing.

Pelosi said the Bush administration must "press the Pakistani government to ensure that the coming election is free and fair." (Reporting by Mohammad Zargham, editing by Todd Eastham)



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