UN delays Bhutto assassination report

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday accepted a request from Pakistan's president to delay the release of a report on the assassination of his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, until April 15.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky made the announcement just two hours before a three-member U.N. commission that investigated Bhutto's death was scheduled to hold a press conference to discuss the report's findings.

"The secretary-general has accepted an urgent request from the president of Pakistan to delay the report ... until April 15," he said. "The intention is the report will not be seen by the Pakistani government until April 15."

Nesirky said he did not know why Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari made the request, which was received at the U.N. overnight.

"The secretary-general would not have accepted the request if he did not think there were good reasons to do so," Nesirky said.

Pakistan's U.N. Mission had no immediate comment.

Bhutto was killed in a Dec. 27, 2007, gun and suicide-bomb attack as she was leaving a rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, where she was campaigning to return her Pakistan People's Party to power in parliamentary elections.

The government at the time of Bhutto's murder, led by President Pervez Musharraf, blamed Baitullah Mehsud, a Pakistani militant commander with reported links to al-Qaida. Officials at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency also said Mehsud was the chief suspect.

But Bhutto's party repeatedly hinted that Musharraf or his allies were involved and demanded a U.N. probe, claiming it was the only way the whole truth would be revealed.

The secretary-general agreed to appoint a commission to assist Pakistan by determining the facts and circumstances of Bhutto's death and it began work on July 1, 2009.

Nesirky said the commission informed Ban that "all relevant facts and circumstances have been explored and the report is now complete and ready to be delivered."

The three-member commission is led by Chile's U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, a dissident during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The other members are former Indonesian attorney general Marzuki Darusman, now a member of the National Commission of Human Rights, and Ireland's former deputy police commissioner Peter Fitzgerald, who headed the initial U.N. inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.

Under terms agreed to by the U.N. and the Pakistani government, the commission was to determine facts and circumstances but Pakistani authorities would determine any criminal responsibility.

Zardari succeeded Musharraf as president in September 2008 and when Ban visited Pakistan in February 2009 the president told government officials: "We believe the commission's findings will eventually expose the financiers, the organizers, the sponsors and the conspirators of this terrorist act and bring them to justice."