Olmert: Bhutto could have been bridge to Muslims

PM tells Post he received news "with deep sadness," says Bhutto wanted to strengthen ties with Israel.

By MICHAL LANDO
December 28, 2007 00:10
2 minute read.
Olmert: Bhutto could have been bridge to Muslims

Bhutto Blast 224.88. (photo credit: AP / AAJ TV)

Israeli leaders paid tribute to slain Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on Thursday, even though Israel and Pakistan do not have diplomatic ties. "I saw her as someone who could have served as a bridgehead to relations with that part of the Muslim world with whom our ties are naturally limited," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told The Jerusalem Post. He said the assassination was a "great tragedy," and that he received the news "with deep sadness." Upon her return to Pakistan two months ago, Bhutto had stopped in London and, through a mutual acquaintance, relayed a message that she would "in the future like to strengthen the ties between Israel and Pakistan," Olmert said. He called Pakistan a "very important country," and said he hoped the assassination would not lead to anarchy there, which would not bring "anything positive to the region or beyond." President Shimon Peres said he was shocked by Bhutto's killing. "Benazir Bhutto was a brave woman, who did not hide her opinions, did not know fear and served her people with courage and rare capability," he said in statement. "I had the chance to meet her on several occasions, in which she expressed interest in Israel and said that she hoped to visit upon returning to power," Peres said. "Benazir was a charismatic leader and a fighter for peace in her country and across the world." Ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman recalled a meeting he had with Bhutto just prior to her return to Pakistan. "My wife and I had an intimate dinner with her and her husband," he said. "We spent over three hours with them. She was an incredibly impressive person, one of the most impressive in terms of her intellect, charm and charisma that I've ever met." Gillerman said Bhutto was interested in normalizing relations with Israel. "She was interested in me relaying that information to Washington and the US, which I did," he said. "We were in touch since that meeting by e-mail several times and she expressed concern about her personal safety." Gillerman said Bhutto had spoken about her fears of Pakistan falling into the hands of Islamic extremists. "She shared with us her plans to return Pakistan to democracy," he said. "She was very well aware of the problems facing her; she knew she was endangering her life by returning. I think she met with us to share with Israel, and through Israel, both her plans, fears and dreams." A Foreign Ministry official said the possibility of sending a representative to Bhutto's funeral was "not even on the agenda," because of Israel's lack of diplomatic ties with Pakistan.


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