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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK

World: Middle East

Bhutto flies into Gulf controversy

Dubai "alarmed by reports of Bhutto's office plans"

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has arrived in Dubai where the government has reacted angrily to reports that she plans to set up a political office in the emirate.

Frank Gardner: Big mistake for Bhutto if she allows Dubai rumour to persist.
Ms Bhutto, who is facing a five-year jail sentence after being convicted of corruption charges in Pakistan, has vowed to confront the government of Nawaz Sharif from abroad.

There have been reports that she has been installing modern communications equipment in a house she owns in Dubai, intending it as the nerve centre of her anti-government campaign.

But an official Emirates' spokesman said on Tuesday that the Emirates would not accept its territory being used as a platform to interfere in the internal affairs of "friendly countries".

A spokesman for Ms Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party denied that the party's central secretariat was moving to Dubai.

Ms Bhutto is expected to remain in Dubai for a few days, where she is reportedly wary of giving any interviews.

Ms Bhutto had been in London since her conviction, on 15 April, and the issuing of an arrest warrant against her.

[ image: Bhutto:
Bhutto: "Welcome in UAE as a friend, but no politics"
The BBC Gulf Correspondent, Frank Gardner, says the Emirates has always sought to maintain good relations with Pakistan, whoever is power in Islamabad.

The UAE is home to hundreds of thousands of Pakistani migrant workers but, as in all Arab Gulf countries, they are not permitted any kind of free political expression or activity.

'Extradition agreement'

A Pakistani newspaper reported on Monday that the UAE and Pakistani governments have exchanged draft proposals for a mutual extradition agreement.

The paper, Jang, said an agreement on the extradition of criminals is expected in six to 10 weeks, quoting unnamed but "highly reliable sources".

That would make it very difficult, the paper observes, for Ms Bhutto to use the UAE as a base for leading a movement against the Pakistani Government, as the UAE government would be obliged to arrest her and hand her over to the Pakistani authorities.

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