Musharraf: Bhutto bears responsibility for death

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf conceded that a gunman may have shot Benazir Bhutto but said the opposition leader exposed herself to danger and bore responsibility for her death, CBS News said on Saturday.

Musharraf was also quoted as telling the CBS “60 Minutes” program to be broadcast on Sunday that his government did everything it could to provide security for Bhutto, who was killed last week in a gun and suicide-bomb attack after a political rally.

“For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers,” Musharraf said in the interview taped on Saturday morning.

Pakistan’s government has said Bhutto died when she struck her head on a handle on her vehicle’s sunroof -- a contention widely derided in Pakistan where many people suspect Musharraf’s government of complicity. The government has also blamed al Qaeda for the attack.

Musharraf was asked by CBS, which provided excerpts of the interview, whether a gunshot could have caused Bhutto’s head injury. He replied, “Yes, yes.”

The questioner asked, “So she may have been shot?” and Musharraf said, “Yes, absolutely, yes. Possibility.”

Bhutto’s widower called on Saturday for a U.N. investigation of the killing.

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In an opinion article in the Washington Post, Asif Ali Zardari urged that a caretaker government be named to oversee national elections that were postponed until next month and he outlined other standards for assessing their legitimacy.

“Democracy in Pakistan can be saved, and extremism and fanaticism contained, only if the elections, when they are held, are free, fair and credible,” he wrote.

Zardari is the new co-chairman of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, alongside their son Bilawal.

Musharraf, a U.S. ally in its battle against terrorism, postponed the general election from January 8 to February 18, and the PPP is expected to benefit from a wave of sympathy for Bhutto.

Musharraf, whose re-election as president in October is still disputed by the opposition, will need support in the next parliament and looks likely to have to renew efforts to reach an understanding with the Bhutto’s party, analysts say.

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Zardari has said the PPP would take part in the vote. But the elections, he said in the Post, must be conducted under a “new, neutral caretaker government, free of cronies from Musharraf’s party.”

He also called for an independent election commission, monitoring by trained international observers with access polling stations and an ability to conduct exit polls, press freedom and an independent judiciary.

He urged that the United States and Britain join the push for a U.N. probe. Britain has sent a team from Scotland Yard to help the government of nuclear-armed Pakistan investigate the killing, and Washington has endorsed the step.

However, Zardari said, “an investigation conducted by the government of Pakistan will have no credibility, in my country or anywhere else.”

Bhutto had complained to an acquaintance shortly before she died that the Pakistani government was not meeting her security pleas.

CBS asked Musharraf whether he believed the government did everything possible for her security. “Absolutely,” he said. “She was given more security than any other person.”

Editing by Jackie Frank