Washington, Dec 28: US President George W Bush has condemned the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, urging her countrymen to keep the nation on a democratic path. He said that those responsible for the act must be brought to justice.
''The US strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy,'' Mr Bush said in a brief statement at his Texas ranch yesterday. He said the assassination of Benazir Bhutto showed the ruthless nature of the terrorist threat. "She knew that her return to Pakistan earlier this year put her life at risk. Yet she refused to allow assassins to dictate the course of her country," Mr Bush said. ''We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism. We urge them to honour Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life,'' said Mr Bush.
Earlier, Mr Bush had a ''brief'' telephone conversation with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has spoken with Ms Bhutto's husband Asif Zardari to condole the death of the leader.
Earlier, in reply to a question, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the elections should go forward without delay so as not to reward Ms Bhutto's killers.
In New York, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting and unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the assassination "in the strongest terms." It called terrorism "one of the most serious threats to international peace and security" and said that "any act of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable." Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers also denounced the killing in their stump speeches.
US House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the assassination ''a tragic setback for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.'' Members of the US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) expressed their heartfelt condolences to the people of Pakistan and the family of the departed Pakistani leader.
''Bhutto was a victim of political violence and militant extremism,'' said Michael Taylor, USINPAC's Director of Government Affairs. He said, ''Pakistan has been in the forefront of the US-led war against terror. The escalation of violence in Pakistan is of major concern to the Indian-American community and USINPAC will remain watchful of the actions taken by our government in this matter."