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Bhutto probe: Pak denies UN panel access to top army officers

The UN probe into the killing of former premier Benazir Bhutto has hit a roadblock with the Pakistan government denying access to top military officials, including powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

world Updated: Jan 01, 2010 16:37 IST

The UN probe into the killing of former premier Benazir Bhutto has hit a roadblock with the Pakistan government denying access to top military officials, including powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The UN inquiry commission headed by Ambassador Heraldo Munoz had submitted a written request some time ago for access to senior military officials, including Kayani, former ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Taj and ex-Military Intelligence head Lt Gen Nadeem Ejaz Mian.

After thorough consultations within the government, the UN panel was informed in writing that access to military officials could not be granted, Dawn News channel reported quoting an unnamed top government official.

There was no official word on the development. The UN panel had sought access to the serving Pakistani military officials shortly after it interviewed former President Pervez Musharraf in New York in November last year.

Acting on a request from the Pakistan People's Party-led government, the UN appointed a three-member inquiry commission to determine the facts and circumstances of Bhutto's assassination on December 27, 2007.

The panel is not expected to name suspected culprits and any criminal investigation will be up to Pakistaniauthorities.

According to the terms of reference of the commission, the UN had demanded that it should enjoy complete cooperation
from the Pakistan government.

The terms of reference state that the Pakistan government "shall comply with the requests of the commission for assistance in collecting the required information and testimony, and shall provide it with the necessary facilities to enable it to discharge its mandate."

Meanwhile, the UN today announced that the investigation will be extended by three months because of the scale of the
task facing the commission.

The panel had earlier been due to submit a report by December 31 following a six-month investigation. "Because of the substantial amount of information collected by the commission in Pakistan and further follow-up work that remains, the commissioners requested additional time to complete their report," a UN statement said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has informed the Security Council and the Pakistan government that the inquiry
will be extended until March 31, it said.