World leaders on Friday condemned a suicide bombing targeting former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto that killed at least 130 people, urging the country to pull together in the face of the tragedy.
The United States, which counts Pakistan as a valuable ally in its "war on terror," said the blasts aimed to stifle freedom in the country but should not be allowed to derail pending elections.
Regional powers China and India, the United Nations and the European Union also denounced the attack, which came just hours after Bhutto had returned to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile.
"The United States condemns the violent attack in Pakistan and mourns the loss of innocent life there," White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
"Extremists will not be allowed to stop Pakistanis from selecting their representatives through an open and democratic process."
Bhutto returned to Pakistan vowing to lead her party into elections due in January after President Pervez Musharraf agreed to drop outstanding corruption charges against her.
Washington has quietly supported moves toward a deal between military ruler Musharraf and Bhutto, seeing an alliance as a way to boost Islamic moderates and step up the fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.
Australia, another close US ally, said the parade attack bore the hallmarks of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
"It is a reminder of the evil of Al-Qaeda. It is a reminder of how important it is not to concede a victory to them in Iraq or in Afghanistan," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.
"Benazir Bhutto, to her credit, as well as General Musharraf, have both said they will continue to support the Americans in the war on terror," he said.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also suggested Al-Qaeda was responsible, as it would have been "deeply offended at the possibility of a woman taking a leadership role in politics in Pakistan in a Muslim country."
China urged Islamabad to maintain stability. "China sternly condemns the explosion. We hope Pakistan will maintain social stability," the official Xinhua news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao as saying.
China is one of Pakistan's closest allies. It maintained strong relations with Bhutto when she was in power, and has continued its close ties with the Musharraf government.
India, which routinely accuses Islamabad of fomenting an Islamic insurgency in disputed Kashmir, added its condemnation.
"The spectre of terrorism confronting our region requires strong and determined action by all our governments," said Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna.
"It is reprehensible that senior political figures are targeted in this way with such loss of innocent life," he added.
India and Pakistan are to hold talks Monday on efforts to put in place an anti-terrorism mechanism designed to share intelligence on militants.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, which has also suffered repeated attacks by Islamic militants including the Bali bombings, voiced its sympathy and condolences.
In a statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was shocked by the bombing. "The secretary general strongly condemns this terrorist attack and... trusts that all political forces will act together to strengthen national unity."
The European Union presidency also condemned the "terrorist attack" on the procession. "The European Union urges the Pakistani authorities to bring those responsible to justice," it said. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was "appalled."
"I condemn utterly the use of violence against entirely innocent people and the attempt to suppress the right of Pakistanis to express their democratic voice," he said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent condolences to victims' families and urged Pakistani authorities "to ensure that the process ahead of legislative elections is conducted in the best possible circumstances."