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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Bhutto 'to ignore Musharraf plea'
Pakistani ex-PM Benazir Bhutto
Ms Bhutto is due to arrive in Pakistan on 18 October
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will ignore a request to delay her return to the country next week, her party officials say.

President Musharraf has asked Ms Bhutto not to return until his re-election has been endorsed by the Supreme court.

But officials from her Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) say no changes will be made to her schedule.

The two sides have been in complex talks on a power sharing deal amid continuing political turmoil.

'Routine matter'

Gen Musharraf won a presidential election last week by a huge majority after boycotts and abstentions by most opposition members of the national and provincial assemblies.

Gen Pervez Musharraf
Gen Musharraf is keeping his cards close to his chest

But he cannot be sworn in until the Supreme Court rules on petitions challenging his decision to contest the poll without giving up his army post.

Ms Bhutto plans to return from her self-imposed exile on 18 October, the day after the court begins sitting.

"I would say she should not come before. We must tide over these problems. She should come later," Gen Musharraf said in an interview broadcast on the private ARY television network on Wednesday.

Asked whether she should return after the court's decision, he said: "Yes, certainly."

But Ms Bhutto's party has rejected the idea of any delay.

"Benazir Bhutto will return on time. There is no change in her schedule," PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told the AFP news agency.

He rejected suggestions that Ms Bhutto and her aides would discuss Gen Musharraf's request later on Thursday in Dubai, where she has lived for most of the time since going into exile from Pakistan in 1999 to avoid corruption charges.

"The meeting in Dubai is a routine matter," Babar said.

Landslide win

In his interview with ARY TV, President Musharraf refused to be drawn on how he would react if the court said he could not be president again.

"We will cross the bridge when we reach it," he said.

His election has been challenged in court on the ground that he continues to serve as army chief.

Fireworks to mark Gen Musharraf's victory
There were celebrations after the victory, but without large crowds

The Supreme Court insists no winner can be declared until it has ruled on the matter.

His lawyers have said he will step down as army chief, but only if he is re-elected.

Before the presidential poll, Ms Bhutto sealed an agreement with Gen Musharraf that gives her an amnesty on corruption charges. The pact could lead to the two sides agreeing to share power.

A parliamentary poll is due to be held by 15 January.



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