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Monday, 21 April 2008

Zardari says no power to confront Musharraf

REUTERS, ISLAMABAD - The widower of assassinated Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto, whose party heads a coalition government, said he does not have the power to confront President Pervez Musharraf.
In an interview with the BBC's Urdu-language service released late on Saturday, Asif Ali Zardari said he did not have the power to upset the relationship between the president, parliament and the government.

"For the time being, we are not breaking up that status quo. We don't have the power. We don't have the two-thirds majority," said Zardari, who led Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to victory in a Feb. 18 general election weeks after she was assassinated on Dec. 27.

Zardari has formed a coalition with the party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the man Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup and who is now determined to force Musharraf from power.

A confrontation between the unpopular Musharraf, a major U.S. security ally, and the new government could prolong instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Critics say Musharraf acted unconstitutionally in securing another term as president in October last year. He could be impeached if two-thirds of the members of parliament agreed.

"We do not want to harm the country by way of confrontation," said Zardari, who became co-chairman of his wife's party after she was killed,.

"I think we have more problems than impeaching the president," he said, apparently referring to economic and security problems.

Zardari did not stand in the February election, but said he intended to run in a by-election. A prime minister and cabinet members must be elected to parliament.
Zardari served as a minister in one of his wife's governments in the 1990s when he was dogged by accusations of corruption, though all corruption and other cases against him have recently been dropped.

He said it was not necessary for him to become prime minister though he did not rule it out.

Asked if he is making a commitment not to become prime minister, he said: "I am not making a commitment that I will not. It's not necessary, I could be if needed."

There has been speculation that new Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, a top official in the PPP, would hold the post until Zardari got elected to parliament but party officials have dismissed such speculation.

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