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US provided Benazir intelligence on the dangers she faced    2007-12-31 07:46:01    

Washington, Dec 31 : The Bush Administration had directly provided former premier Benazir Bhutto with intelligence on the dangers she faced from militants in Pakistan weeks before her assassination.
The Bush Administration had directly provided former premier Benazir Bhutto with intelligence on the dangers she faced from militants in Pakistan weeks before her assassination.

As a slain Bhutto was laid to rest, questions mounted about both the adequacies of the US efforts and shortcomings on the side of the Pakistani Government.

US lawmakers and Bhutto's friends charged that Musharraf had rebuffed America's entreaties for beefed-up security. The US officials were reluctant to press Musharraf too hard, a former adviser to Bhutto said.

The decision to provide intelligence to an opposition candidate in a country headed by a strong American ally reflects US recognition of the gravity of the threat that Bhutto faced.

Yet though acknowledging the danger, US officials stopped short of providing direct security services, such as the private contractors they have arranged for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and for top leaders in Iraq.

Pakistani officials have rejected criticism of their security efforts, contending that they took careful precautions for Bhutto's safety.

But when she was killed on Thursday, she had no police escort, only her own force of volunteer guards surrounding her car, putting their bodies between her and any attacker.

The intelligence provided to Bhutto was furnished by the US Embassy in Islamabad, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Along with information about possible threats to her, the Americans provided security advice on ways her risks could be reduced, the official added.

The U.S. official said the Americans were aware that Bhutto faced serious dangers, especially in light of an earlier attempt on her life, a bombing during her homecoming rally in Karachi on Oct. 19, in which more than 140 people were killed.

Americans also "reiterated" that the Musharraf government needed to make vigorous attempts to avert dangers to her, the official said.

Husain Haqqani, the former advisor to Bhutto, said he had entreated US officials to press Musharraf to see that Bhutto had better security.

He said that the US officials resisted deeper involvement, saying that they did not want to start "micromanaging the security arrangements of another country."

Haqqani, who is director of the Center for International Relations at Boston University, said he considered the US argument legitimate.

Haqqani also said that Bhutto wanted to use private international security contractors for her protection, but Musharraf was unwilling to provide the necessary approvals for them to operate in Pakistan, even though Bhutto was willing to pay for them herself.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate, released a letter that he and two Senate colleagues wrote to Musharraf at Bhutto's request to urge him to step up her protection.

The letter, sent soon after the October attempt on Bhutto's life, urges that she be given "the full level of security support afforded to any former Prime Minister," including bomb-proof vehicles and jamming equipment, The News reported.

Biden said, however, that their appeal was unavailing and that Musharraf was "indirectly complicit" in the assassination. (ANI)
© 2007 ANI

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