World leaders offer praise, but little advice

Many national leaders condemned the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but few ventured any public advice to Pakistan's leaders on how to deal with potentially explosive passions unleashed by the terrorist strike.

Many national leaders condemned the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but few ventured any public advice to Pakistan's leaders on how to deal with potentially explosive passions unleashed by the terrorist strike.

Within hours of her death, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to go ahead with national elections on January 8.

"It is more indispensable than ever that the January 8 legislative elections are prepared and take place under conditions of pluralism, transparency and security which will permit the Pakistani people to express themselves and freely choose their elected officials," Mr Sarkozy said in a letter to Mr Musharraf.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said Pakistan should hold the elections as planned.

President George Bush, who has been a firm supporter of Mr Musharraf, was more oblique in calling on Pakistan's people "to honour Benazir Bhutto's memory by continuing with the democratic process for which she so bravely gave her life".

Asked whether the US was confident that Pakistan could stage an election in January, a State Department spokesman said: "Well, we're going to see what happens."

In the markets, which tend to react negatively to any hint of instability, the price of oil rose and the dollar fell.

"The critical driver right now for crude oil is the political unrest and the uncertainty as to how it will develop," said Max Pyziur, an energy analyst with CPM Group.

The reaction in many capitals was of shock, sorrow and condemnation of Ms Bhutto's killers, who were repeatedly condemned as cowardly.

The UN Security Council summed up the world reaction by voting unanimously to condemn the killing and urge all nations to help bring those responsible for "this reprehensible act" to justice.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet paid "sincere tribute to a woman … who fought her entire life for a better Pakistan".

President Cristina Fernandez of Argentina called the assassination "an abominable act", while Venezuela's government condemned what it called an "act of blind violence".

South African President Thabo Mbeki was among many who expressed confidence - or the hope - that Pakistani authorities "would leave no stone unturned to ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous act face the full might of the law".

The head of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, said: "this blatant crime … is an attack at the stability and peace in Pakistan and an open provocation aimed at derailing the efforts of unity, reconciliation and democratic process".

"Those who are behind this heinous crime are not only enemies of Pakistan but also of the peaceful and tolerant religion of Islam and should be promptly identified and brought to justice," Ihsanoglu said.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora called the killing a "repulsive terrorist crime".

"Violence and political terrorism have never been a means except for increasing tragedies and disasters," Saniora said in a statement released by his office.

In India, which has fought three wars against Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Bhutto was irreplaceable.

"In her death, the subcontinent has lost an outstanding leader who worked for democracy and reconciliation in her country," he said.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, who met Ms Bhutto on the day she was killed in Islamabad, said he was "deeply pained" by the assassination of "this brave sister of ours, a brave daughter of the Muslim world."

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi urged the people of Pakistan to remain calm. "I pray that the situation in Pakistan will soon stabilise," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to Mr Musharraf saying Ms Bhutto's murder was "a challenge thrown down by forces of terrorism not only to Pakistan but also to the entire international community."

Anatoly Safonov, Mr Putin's envoy on international co-operation against terrorism, expressed fears the assassination would trigger violent repercussions.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said: "This criminal and terrorist act was aimed at disturbing peace in the neighbouring Muslim Pakistan."

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