ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 09

Musharraf and Bhutto in secret power-sharing talks: Reports

ISLAMABAD, Saturday (AP) -Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf held secret talks with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto about a possible power-sharing deal, media reported today. The meeting, held on Friday in the Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi, lasted about one hour and ended without an agreement, Pakistani newspapers and television networks reported. Official spokesmen for Musharraf and Bhutto said they had no information on any meeting.


''I am not in a position to confirm or deny the development,'' said Farhatullah Babar, Bhutto's spokesman in Pakistan. He said he hoped to speak with Bhutto later about the reports. Musharraf's spokesman Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi declined to respond to the news reports. ''I have really no idea so I don't want to comment,'' he said.

Reports of the meeting come amid intense speculation that Musharraf would seek Bhutto as an ally in his plans to seek reappointment from legislators for another term. The plans face constitutional hurdles, weakening the hand of Musharraf, an army general who seized power in 1999 and who is a key U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism.

The talks faltered when Bhutto, who leads the Pakistan People's Party from self-imposed exile in London, refused to agree to support Musharraf if he did not resign from the military, Geo television reported, citing unnamed sources. A potential deal would include changing part of Pakistan's constitution that blocks Bhutto from becoming prime minister again, The Nation and other newspapers reported.

Bhutto served as prime minister twice in the 1980s and 1990s, but fled the country to avoid corruption charges after her second government collapsed. Back-channel talks between envoys for the two leaders have been reported for months, and a face-to-face meeting between the two could indicate the sides are close to a deal.

Musharraf has kept a low profile since the Supreme Court ended his bid to fire its chief judge, seen as a major setback to his plans to win a new five-year presidential term from lawmakers this fall. The downturn in political fortunes comes amid a surge in attacks since an army assault on the pro-Taliban Red Mosque in Islamabad killed at least 102 people. A controversial security deal with tribal leaders on the Afghan border to contain Taliban and al-Qaeda forces has also collapsed.

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