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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 January 2006, 16:14 GMT
Pakistan seeks arrest of Bhutto
The Interpol notice for Ms Bhutto
Interpol issued the notice after a fresh approach from Pakistan
Interpol has issued notices for the arrest of ex-Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

Ms Bhutto, who lives in self-imposed exile, and her husband are charged in a number of corruption cases relating to her time in power in the 1980s and 90s.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas says it is the first time Interpol has taken such drastic action against the couple.

The "red notices" issued for the couple did not amount to international arrest warrants, Interpol confirmed.

The PPP and Bhutto will not succumb to such pressure tactics of the military dictatorship
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar

Our correspondent says the latest developments suggest attempts at reconciliation between the authorities and Ms Bhutto have ended in failure.

Ms Bhutto has always denied any wrongdoing and maintains that the cases of financial corruption against her and her husband are all politically motivated.

The couple's lawyers said they had written to Interpol questioning the notices and were plannning to challenge them legally.

Ms Bhutto is currently believed to be visiting her husband in the US, where his lawyers say he is undergoing medical treatment.

'Fugitives'

The couple face more than half a dozen corruption cases in Pakistan.

International arrest warrants do not exist... A red notice can be viewed as an 'international wanted persons notice'
Interpol

In at least one case, the former prime minister has been sentenced to three years imprisonment for her failure to appear for trial.

She and her husband are also being tried in Switzerland, where they deny taking kick-backs from a Swiss firm.

Interpol sent the notices, which carry photographs and personal details of the couple and specifically relate to the Swiss case, to all of its 184 member countries.

"It is the decision of each country as to how they view a red notice and whether they consider it a basis for provisional arrest," an Interpol statement said.

Zardari being arrested at Islamabad airport
Mr Zardari has heart problems, his lawyers say

Any decision would depend on an extradition treaty existing between a particular country and Pakistan.

Interpol said it made its decision on the basis of a fresh approach from Islamabad within the last month.

The new approach came after a Pakistani court ruled that Ms Bhutto and her husband were fugitives from justice because they had failed to appear in court to answer corruption charges.

Dozen cases

Ms Bhutto has lived mostly in London or Dubai since 1999, when Pakistan's military ruler Pervez Musharraf seized power.

Benazir Bhutto addresses party faithful at Trafalgar Square in August 2002
Benazir Bhutto has lived outside Pakistan since 1999

The Home Office declined to comment on her case.

A spokeswoman said Pakistan was a country with which the UK did not have an extradition treaty, although the Home Office could consider extradition requests from such countries "on an ad hoc basis".

Ms Bhutto maintains she has been co-operating with the authorities.

"We have made it clear that Benazir Bhutto is neither a fugitive from law nor absconding from serving a jail term for which the government of Pakistan can request Interpol," party spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the AFP news agency.

"Ms Bhutto has been appearing through her lawyers in all these cases against her in Pakistan and in Switzerland and therefore she is not a fugitive from the legal process."

Mr Zardari was freed on bail in November 2004 after spending eight years in prison in Pakistan on charges ranging from corruption to murder.




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