LONDON, Dec 30: President Pervez Musharraf agreed on Sunday to “consider” international help for a probe into the death of Benazir Bhutto in a conversation with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Downing Street said.

Mr Brown spoke to President Musharraf Sunday after a previous call on Friday and stressed the need to hold the January 8 election on time, Brown’s office said.

“The Prime Minister underlined the need to push ahead with the democratic process and to avoid any significant delays to the electoral timetable,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

“The Prime Minister also reinforced the UK’s offer of an extension to our already significant counter-terrorism cooperation.

“Potential international support to the Pakistani investigation into the tragic death of Ms Bhutto was also raised, with both sides agreeing to consider this suggestion further.”

Pakistan’s interior ministry has ruled out international help, saying that the world community “does not understand the environment” in the country.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband pledged on Saturday that the British government would make “full resources” available to Pakistan to help with the investigation into Ms Bhutto’s death.

The Downing Street spokesman said the two sides had also agreed on the need for all sides in Pakistan “to pursue a path of reconciliation and restraint”.

Pelosi: Washington should address “troubling questions” about Pakistan’s probe of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and its cooperation in fighting terrorism before extending any more aid, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in Washington on Saturday.

Pelosi called for an international investigation into the Dec 27 assassination of Ms Bhutto, which President Musharraf’s government has blamed on Al-Qaeda.

Pelosi, a California Democrat, said US 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 US 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 US aid is sent to the Musharraf government.”

Ms Pelosi said the Bush administration must “press the Pakistani government to ensure that the coming election is free and fair.”

Cabinet meeting: The federal cabinet will meet in Islamabad on Monday to discuss issues relating to the forthcoming election and review law and order situation in the country.

Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Nisar A. Memon said this while talking to a private television channel on Sunday.

The minister said Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz would brief the cabinet on the law and order situation.

Replying to a question, he said the law and order had almost come to normal and day-to-day activities were resuming.

Mr Memon said he talked with the provincial authorities and they expressed satisfaction over the improvement in the situation which erupted after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Prime Minister Mohammadmian Soomro started consultative process with the political parties, especially with PPP in light of the decisions taken at the last cabinet meeting.

He said three-day mourning was observed in the country in accordance with the announcement by President Pervez Musharraf following the tragic incident, adding that the people were still in a state of grief and shock.

Mr Memon said the government had taken various measures to improve law and order situation.

Law-enforcement agencies in the provinces are taking miscreants to task to prevent incidents of looting, damaging properties and disturbing normal life.

The minister referred to the wave of terrorism and said Benazir Bhutto herself was in the forefront fighting this menace.

He said the government was waiting for the decisions of the PPP central executive committee to decide its future course of action on the issue of upcoming general elections.

Replying to another question, the minister said the federal cabinet would look into ground realities including input of the Election Commission before deciding about the holding of general elections on schedule.—Agencies


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