France offers help to Pakistan in Bhutto's assassination probe

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Islamabad, Jan 2 (UNI) France today offered help in the ongoing probe into assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

The former Pakistan prime mininster was killed in a gunfire and suicide attack last Thursday after addressing an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

The offer of help came as the visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrived in Pakistan and held talks with senior leaders including Pakistan Foreign Minister Inam-ul-Haq.

''We are committed to a thorough and transparent investigation into Benazir Bhutto's assassination and are open to receiving assistance from outside," Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Sadiq told reporters at a press briefing.

A number of countries including the United States, the United Kingdom and France have offered help in the probe, he added.

The spoekesman said during his talks with Pakistani leadership, the visiting French Foreign Minister also offered assistance in the investigations.

He informed these countries have been told that Pakistan would contact them for assistance if required.

Mr Sadiq said the government is deeply moved by the expression of condolences and sympathy with the people of Pakistan and the family of Benazir Bhutto by the international community.

To a question about demands by some circles about UN probe into the killing, the spokesman said it was an unfortunate and extraordinary situation and some extraordinary statements were expected.

When asked to comment on a letter written by some US Congressmen to the Secretary of State on the issue, the spokesman said Pakistan Government is committed to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and holding elections.

He said it would not be appropriate to jump to conclusions. He warned that threats of suspension of US assistance would not help improve relations between the two countries that were based on mutual interest.

It would also be not in the interest of regional peace and stability as well as the political process in Pakistan, he added.

Mr Kouchner conveyed condolences from the president and people of France on the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and reiterated his country's support in the common fight against terrorism.

Mr Haq expressed appreciation for the special gesture of the France and said Pakistan would ensure that the culprits were apprehended and punished. He also underlined Pakistan's resolve to continue on the path of democracy and to defeat terrorism.

UNI XC RJ RN2006

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