Musharraf urges Bhutto to put off return home

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Islamabad, Oct 10: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said in comments broadcast today that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto should not return home until the country's top court rules on the legality of his re-election victory last week.

Bhutto is scheduled to fly back home on October 18 after living eight years in self-exile. US ally Musharraf and Bhutto have been in talks for months to reach a power-sharing pact.

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The Supreme Court is due to reconvene on October 17 to consider opposition challenges to Musharraf's eligibility in the presidential election last Saturday in which he swept most votes.

''I would say she should not come before. We must tide over these problems. She should come later,'' he said in an interview with private ARYONE television network broadcast today.

Asked whether she should return after the decision, he said: ''Yes, certainly''.

He did not elaborate why he thought she should return after the court decision.

In a major step towards the possible deal, Musharraf last week promulgated an ordinance dropping corruption charges against Bhutto and other public office holders from 1985 to 1999.

In return, members of parliament from Bhutto' party, unlike other opposition parliamentarians, did not resign and abstained when Musharraf, who is also army chief, sought the vote.

Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, has promised to quit the post of army chief before taking oath of office for the second term. His current term in office expires on November 15.

Bhutto plans to come back to lead her party in a general election due in early January.


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