President George W Bush on Thursday condemned the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto as a "cowardly act" and said the US stood with the country's people in their fight against terrorism.
Asking the Pakistani people to honour Bhutto's "memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life", Bush said, "The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan's democracy."
Bush, who was informed about reports of Bhutto's assassination during a regular morning briefing at his Crawford ranch in central Texas where he is vacationing, spoke to reporters at a hangar adjacent to the ranch.
"Those who committed this crime must be brought to justice," he said, expressing his deepest condolences to Bhutto's family and to the families of others slain in the attack and to all the people of Pakistan.
"We stand with the people of Pakistan in their struggle against the forces of terror and extremism. We urge them to honour Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life," he said.
In New York, the United Nations Security Council is to hold consultations -- closed discussions between envoys of the 15 council member states - at noon (10.30 pm IST) that could lead to a statement on Bhutto's assassination, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said.
The assassination of Bhutto is seen here as a major setback to US efforts to build a political coalition between a moderate democratic leader and a key military ally in Washington's war on terror.
But US relations with Pakistan have been strained somewhat since Musharraf last month declared emergency rule. It was at President George Bush's urging that Musharraf reluctantly shed his military uniform, lifted the emergency and set a timetable for elections.
After the imposition of emergency rule, several opposition US Democratic leaders demanded that military aid to Pakistan be suspended, and lawmakers earlier this month attached several conditions to some $50 million in military assistance to Musharraf's government.
However, the Congress authorised $300 million in aid to Pakistan, as part of a Wide-ranging $555 billion spending bill that Bush signed into law on Wednesday.
The $50 million in military aid can only be used after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certifies to the Congress that Pakistan is making "concerted Efforts" to prevent terrorists and the Taliban from operating inside its borders.
Officials said last week that the administration was confident the new restrictions would not prevent it from actually providing the money. The restrictions would also not affect the sale of F-16 aircraft to Pakistan as part of a $2.1 billion arms deal, they said.