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Sat 9 Feb 2008 01:46 PM

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Controversial assessment of Bhutto killing backed by US

State Department says Scotland Yard probe 'credible', no plans for independent inquiry.

The US deemed the conclusions of Britain's Scotland Yard on the assassination of Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto "credible" and will not demand an independent inquiry.

"Certainly I understand that this is an emotional issue, both for members of her family, as well as for the many people in Pakistan who supported Benazir Bhutto," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

"In terms of the investigation itself by Scotland Yard, we view this as a credible investigation by independent, outside experts... We don't have any reason why we would question the validity of their assessment."

The British team of forensics and other experts spent two and a half weeks in Pakistan in January at the invitation of President Pervez Musharraf, following the killing of the high-profile opposition leader and former prime minister.

Scotland Yard said a lone assassin shot at Bhutto as she waved to supporters at an election rally in Rawalpindi on December 27 - but he missed and then detonated explosives which fatally smashed her skull against her car.

The findings, which support the Pakistani government's controversial theory of the assassination, have caused fresh controversy ahead of general elections in Pakistan on February 18. The polls were postponed by six weeks because of deadly riots sparked by Bhutto's assassination.

Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) immediately rejected the findings, insisting that the two-time former premier was slain by a bullet and reiterating calls for a UN inquiry into her murder.

The State Department said it would not press for further investigation.

"Certainly it's important for people to feel that they have a clear understanding of what happened," Casey said.

"We aren't proposing anything particular, though, and I think it would be up to the Pakistanis to decide whether they felt they needed more review or investigation of this beyond what Scotland Yard and Pakistani authorities have already done."

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