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Sat 23 Feb 2008 12:56 PM

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Pakistan PM to be named next month

Frontrunner for post Makhdoom Amin Fahim, vice president of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.

Pakistan's new government, which could drive President Pervez Musharraf from office, will likely name its choice for prime minister when parliament reconvenes next month, a party official said Saturday.

The two biggest parties to emerge after Monday's election have been weighing their choice for prime minister after agreeing to form a coalition that analysts say could place key US ally Musharraf's political future in doubt.

Officials from both parties said the frontrunner to be prime minister was Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the widely respected vice president of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

"There is an agreement that Fahim should be the parliamentary leader and candidate for PM but the announcement is unlikely to be made public before the parliament is convened into session, most probably in the first week of March," a senior PPP official told newswire AFP.

Another senior PPP official said earlier that Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, and Nawaz Sharif, whose party emerged second to the PPP "discussed the name of Makhdoom Amin Fahim as the future premier" during a meeting.

Sharif, a former prime minister, and Zardari announced that their parties would join forces after trouncing Musharraf's allies in the ballot. The two camps were once bitter rivals.

They have agreed that the PPP would designate the next prime minister.

The first senior party official said that although Fahim was the man most likely to be named, there was no rush to make a formal announcement and internal discussions were continuing.

Bhutto's assassination at a suicide attack during a political rally in December overshadowed the election campaign.

Musharraf seized power from Sharif in a 1999 coup and was seen in Washington as a bulwark against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Questions remain over whether Pakistan's new coalition will press for the former general's immediate ouster from office.

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