Pak ready for outside help to investigate Bhutto's death: Durran

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Washington, Jan 1 (UNI) Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Mahmud Ali Durrani said his government would welcome outside experts to help investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, reversing the country's earlier rejection of international help.

Mr Durrani said his government would not endorse a separate inquiry modeled after one carried out by the United Nations after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister, in 2005.

''Pakistan is open to international expertise, support and help because it's in our interests,'' The New York Times quoted him as saying. Details of any assistance still needed to be worked out, he pointed.

After Bhutto's death last Thursday, the US offered to send forensic specialists from the FBI, and the UK to provide technicians from Scotland Yard to assist investigators.

But the Pakistan government refused the offers, saying it was capable of conducting any investigations itself. However, with calls growing inside and outside the South Asian nation for some outside review, the government seems to have backed away from its earlier position.

A State Department official said the US had been pressing Islamabad to allow international involvement in the inquiry to give it credibility with Bhutto's supporters and others.

The American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Pakistan had quietly been discussing options with Scotland Yard, and that the FBI was ready to fly forensic experts to Pakistan. The Pakistani officials were trying to hammer something out over the next couple of days, the official said.

Former South Asia expert at the State department, Daniel S Markey, said Pakistan had lost credibility with its shifting version of events Bhutto's death.

''The government has been reluctant to bring in anyone because it suggests they can't conduct an investigation and it makes them look weak,'' he said, adding, ''But as long as they continue to bungle it, it makes them look weak and, even worse, it makes them look complicit.'' UNI XC SYU SK RK1814

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