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Bhutto admits meeting Musharraf secretly

world Updated: Oct 03, 2007 19:55 IST

PTI
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Acknowledging that she has met secretly with President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto has said that the power sharing deal with the General is not possible unless he takes concrete steps towards democracy.

"There were these widespread reports that we met secretly. And whenever we've had an opportunity to meet, we've had a good rapport, a good exchange of ideas," Bhutto said in interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

Asked if she had met secretly with Musharraf, Bhutto said, "well, we were supposed to keep it secret, but it's kind of an open secret now."

She said "I have been trying to reach an understanding with General Musharraf to bring about a transition to democracy, and I was quite hopeful a few weeks ago, but now I'm getting a little worried, because time is running out."

"Unless General Musharraf can take concrete steps to show that we are moving forward towards democracy, it might be very difficult for us to reach an understanding," Bhutto, who plans to return Pakistan next month from self-exile, said.

She charged some leaders with creating obstacle in her talks with Musharraf and said "there are people around him who don't want this understanding, who don't want him to make the political concessions that are necessary to facilitate the path towards democracy."

"I had asked him to take some steps for fair elections. Those remain unimplemented. There were certain other commitments," she said, adding "the time is running out and there's pressure on my party to join the other political parties and resign from parliament unless an accommodation is reached with Musharraf."

The former Premier was asked if she had assurance from Musharraf if she would be allowed to stay in the country.

She replied "General Musharraf has not given this assurance, but I know I can't be handed over to any third country. So the choice is either to let me be free or the choice is to try and lock me up."

"I'm in a different boat than Nawaz Sharif. He was sentenced for treason and tax evasion. I haven't been sentenced for any crime. And, secondly, Nawaz Sharif got the Saudis to stand guarantee for his release and said he wouldn't return for 10 years. I was offered the same deal, but I refused," she said.

"I want to go back and bring change. People want democracy," she said.

Expressing fear of life, Bhutto said that Osama bin Laden and other terrorists would like to go after her.

"They would like to go against me. There's a lot of threats because under military dictatorship an anarchy situation has developed which the terrorists and Osama have exploited. They don't want democracy. They don't want me back.... And they don't believe in women governing nations," she said making the point that her family has had a tragic history of assassinations.

Bhutto said, "I have raised the issue of my security with General Musharraf, and I've asked him to provide me the security that I'm entitled to as a former prime minister. I hope that he will provide me the security, because I have been a target of terrorists in the past. And I know I could be a target in the future".