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Musharraf: Bhutto to blame for her assassination

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  • NEW: Bhutto's assassination was her own fault, says Musharraf in interview
  • NEW: He blamed her for standing up outside the safety of an armored car
  • British police visit site of Benazir Bhutto's assassination
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RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) -- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination was her own fault, the country's president, Pervez Musharraf, said in an interview that aired Sunday on U.S. television.

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Bhutto sits on stage at a campaign rally minutes before her assassination.

"For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone -- nobody else. Responsibility is hers," the former general told CBS' "60 Minutes."

Bhutto was killed December 27 in Rawalpindi, south of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, while she was standing in an armored moving car after rallying supporters for now-postponed parliamentary elections. Her head was above the roof and unprotected at the time of the attack.

The cause of her death is not clear: a bomber blew himself up near Bhutto's limousine and videotape showed a gunman present, though no autopsy has been carried out.

Asked if Bhutto could have been shot, Musharraf said, "Yes, absolutely, yes. Possibility." He has said he welcomes an international investigation.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, rejected criticism that his government did not do enough to provide security to Bhutto, who was seeking to regain the post of prime minister. He noted that she had already survived one assassination attempt and "was given more security than any other person."

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Asked about the hunt for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, widely rumored to be in the remote border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Musharraf said, "There is no proof whatsoever that he's here. We are not particularly looking for him, but we are operating against this -- and al Qaeda and militant Taliban. And in the process, obviously, it is combined. Maybe we are looking for him also."

And Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Mahmud Ali Durrani, told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that, "If we knew where he was, we would have taken him out."

Durrani added that Musharraf's comment about "not specifically looking for Osama" means that the Pakistani military is "totally focused on destroying al Qaeda and the Taliban network and not just one person."

About Bhutto's death, he noted only that the investigation is not completed "and we should not jump to conclusions."

Still, he added, "if she had not come out of the vehicle, the protected and armored vehicle, maybe we would have seen her smiling face again today."

Though Musharraf's popularity at home has plummeted, he retains support from GOP presidential contender Sen. John McCain.

"I think he's a good man," the Arizonan told NBC's "Meet the Press." "But I think he's made mistakes, don't get me wrong. And we've got to move forward with these elections and have them free and fair.

"But I can work with him. He understands the threat to his country that the Taliban and al Qaeda present. And radical Islamic extremists. He's a very smart man. He'd be one of the first to go. They've tried to kill him nine times, OK? Nine times they've tried to kill Musharraf. He's not their favorite guy."

The New York Times reported Sunday that the Bush administration is considering expanding covert operations in the western part of Pakistan to shore up support for Musharraf's government and to find bin Laden and his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson of New Mexico told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that, though he had not heard details of the plan, "it sounds like a strategy that makes sense."

He added, "We have got to take whatever action is needed."

Richardson has called for Musharraf to step down and has called for free and fair elections.

"What we need to do is ask Musharraf, push him, push him to step aside for the good of the country, because he is widely unpopular," he told CNN.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate from New York, said Saturday that she would try to persuade Musharraf to share the responsibility for safeguarding his country's nuclear weapons with a delegation from the United States and perhaps Great Britain.

Meanwhile, detectives from Britain's Scotland Yard Saturday examined the scene where Bhutto was assassinated.

CNN cameraman Phil Littleton said the British counter-terrorism officers spent more than two hours at the public park at Liaqat Bath in Rawalpindi. They also visited the site where Bhutto held a rally just prior to her killing.

The team of five detectives arrived in Pakistan Friday after Musharraf agreed they should work alongside Pakistani agencies to determine how Bhutto was killed and who was responsible for her death.

The Pakistan interior ministry say the former leader died when she hit her head on the lever of her car's sunroof after ducking for cover after a suicide bomb attack on her convoy.

However, supporters of Bhutto insist she was shot prior to the explosion -- a view that some say is supported by video footage of the moments before the blast.

In Rawalpindi, police commandos blocked off the road while the British investigators were walked around the scene by Pakistani police, Littleton said.

He said the detectives took photographs and climbed onto a building that overlooked the site of the rally and assassination.

The investigators also spoke with members of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) at a makeshift shrine positioned on the side of the road where the killing took place, he added. They departed the scene under heavy police escort.

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Asif Ali Zardari, who has stepped in to lead the PPP, has called for a United Nations inquiry into his late wife's assassination.

Musharraf said Wednesday that he expected the Scotland Yard investigators to help "solve all the confusion" surrounding the case. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Pakistani PoliticsBenazir BhuttoPervez MusharrafNawaz SharifPakistan

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