US backs Pak decision to seek external help in Bhutto murder probe

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Washington, Jan 4 (UNI) The Bush Administration has extended ''full support'' to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's decision to ''seek outside technical assistance'' in the inquiry into former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination last week.

''It's a wise course that he (Mr Musharraf) has taken in the best interests of Pakistan and the Pakistani people,'' State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday here.

He, however, said, ''we'll see how that investigation plays out.

I'm not going to try to jump in and handicap what the results of the investigation may be. I think from our perspective, for our purposes, it's best to let the investigation unfold and see what it brings.'' Mr McCormack said, ''We all mourn the passing of Benazir Bhutto.

Now it's important to try to determine what happened so that chapter of Pakistan's history can be closed and that the Pakistani people can move to build on what had been some progress in terms of building momentum for political reform in Pakistan.'' He welcomed the scheduling of a firm date (February 18) for elections in Pakistan. ''It's terribly important in the current circumstances where you have so much political turbulence within the Pakistani political system,'' he said.

''What the Pakistani Government and the Pakistani officials need to do now,'' he pointed out, ''is to make best use of that time between now and February 18 to make sure that independent media is able to operate, to make sure that those who want to peacefully participate in the political process can do so, that any restrictions on political parties are lifted.'' UNI XC MP BST0553

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