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Visiting U.S. lawmakers were to meet with Bhutto

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LAURIE KELLMAN
December 28, 2007
— Two U.S. lawmakers cut short their visit to Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., had been scheduled to meet Thursday with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf. They were advised to leave the country by the State Department after Bhutto’s assassination.


Kennedy’s chief of staff Adam Brand said the lawmakers left Pakistan early Friday and had arrived in Jordan. They had to cancel some meetings they had planned for Friday in Pakistan, Brand said.


Specter said in a telephone interview Thursday from his Islamabad hotel room that he and Kennedy were to dine with Musharraf and meet later in the night with Bhutto.


He said he heard about the attack on Bhutto as he was dressing for the dinner with Musharraf.


“Our foreign policy had relied on her presence as a stabilizing force,” Specter said, emotionally describing her death as “a real, real, real shock.”


Kennedy said he was just leaving his hotel room for the dinner when someone advised him to check the television for news about Bhutto.


“I couldn’t believe it,” Kennedy said in a telephone interview Thursday from Pakistan. “You could really feel the tragedy of this loss because Bhutto really represented hope here for so many people.”


Bhutto was shot to death Thursday in a suicide attack that also killed at least 20 others during a campaign rally in Rawalpindi. She served twice as Pakistan’s prime minister between 1988 and 1996 and had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile Oct. 18 to seek the office again.


After learning that she was dead, Specter, Kennedy and Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, laid flowers under Bhutto’s photograph at her campaign headquarters in what they described as an unsettling atmosphere. Specter said he felt apprehensive about being an American there out at night.


Patrick Kennedy, son of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Robert Kennedy’s nephew, said they laid the flowers at Bhutto’s headquarters because it was unsafe to do so at her residence.


Both lawmakers said turmoil was engulfing the country.


“Her death really dashed the hope of many here in Pakistan and that’s why there’s so much disillusionment and anger being vented through these protests that are lighting up the sky tonight as people set fires all over the countryside,” Kennedy said.


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Associated Press writer Andrew Miga contributed to this report.



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