NEW YORK, Jan 30: US Senator John Kerry, who will travel to Pakistan to monitor the Feb 18 elections, said on Wednesday that President Pervez Musharraf had denied private security to Pakistan People’s Party leader Benazir Bhutto.

In a report published in a Boston-based news magazine, Senator Kerry said he had met Bhutto in his Washington office shortly before her return to Pakistan on Oct 18. The two discussed her fears for her personal safety.

“She talked to me about security. I called the State Department and talked to them about the security,” he said in the magazine’s editorial board meeting. The Boston Democrat is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East and South and Central Asian Affairs. Senator Kerry narrowly lost 2004 presidential elections to George Bush.

After the Oct 18 attacks in Karachi, Senator Kerry said he spoke to Ms Bhutto again and stepped up efforts to boost her private security.

“I called (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice on her behalf and said Musharraf is not letting her have private security, she needs it, we need to intervene.”

Senator Kerry said he never learned if State Department officials responded to his request.

“I still don’t know to this moment whether they ultimately did intervene, but history is what it is,” he said.

Senator Kerry is among US lawmakers who have criticised the Bush administration for its steadfast support of Mr Musharraf despite his suspension of the constitution and declaration of emergency rule last year and his purge of the judiciary.

Senator Kerry is expected to be among a large number of international observers who were monitor next month’s elections.

Kerry said stabilising Pakistan’s democratic government was key to peace in the Middle East and South Asia.

“Getting this resolved in the long run is critical to us, not to mention to our security on a daily basis,” he said. “We don’t want kids being blown up 10 years from now because we have a holy war we haven’t been able to resolve.”

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