U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times

Funny how Obama now sees that Iran is a threat and is persuing nuclear weapons… I wonder what would have happened had he been privy to this level of intel when the decision to take out Saddam was made… I bet he would have sang a different tune, but then again he was just a state senator in IL and did not have access to intel this level of intel when he spoke out against going into Iraq.

Reporting from Washington — Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.” 

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran’s intent.

“When you’re talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington. 

Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama’s political advantage. “It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran,” he said.

Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Obama’s top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.

Iran’s advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges — cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium — to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.

By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.

A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that “Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009.” That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.

Tehran’s progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country’s nuclear scientists to leave.

Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran’s rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.

And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was “ready to hold talks based on mutual respect,” and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities “in the coming months.”

Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also said Iran would be patient.

“Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground,” Qashqavi said.

But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.

“They’ve made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10,” Cirincione said.

via U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times.

Newly Published: Threats in the Age of Obama by Michael Tanji

A must read… Check the link at the bottom of the post to check out the book

If you are on a mission to change the way government works, particularly in the national security arena, this is one a place where some independent and intellectually diverse thinking is to be found. In these essays, we offer our view of some of the more pressing threats the Obama administration will have to deal with in these early days of the 21st century.

via Amazon.com: Threats in the Age of Obama: Michael Tanji: Books.

Obama Lays Ground Work For Direct Negotiations With Iran

Direct diplomacy without preconditions I am sure… Just wait and see. Pretty soon we will be bending over for these asshats while they builds some nukes… Remember what happened with N. Korea under the Clinton administration… 

Change You Can Believe In!

President Obama did a quick pivot Monday, shifting his focus to foreign policy by contacting a handful of major world leaders — including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nikolas Sarkozy — as his new U.N. ambassador restated the desire for vigorous and “direct diplomacy” with Iran.

President Obama did a quick pivot Monday, shifting his focus to foreign policy by contacting a handful of major world leaders — including Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nikolas Sarkozy — as his new U.N. ambassador restated the desire for vigorous and “direct diplomacy” with Iran.

Obama spoke with the foreign leaders ahead of a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who was leaving immediately afterward for a trip to the region. Mitchell will go to Cairo, Egypt; Jersusalem, Israel; Ramallah in the West Bank; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He will also visit Paris and London.

Back in the U.S., U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who was confirmed last week for the post, said Monday that Iran’s refusal to meet international obligations will increase pressure on Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions and cooperate with the United States and global community.

Besides pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran has called for the destruction of Israel and support for Hamas, a terror group designated by the U.S., Israel and the European Union. 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Rice’s remarks are not a departure from statements made previously by Obama the candidate. She merely restated the administration position that no forms of communication should be off the table with the Islamic regime. 

“Whether you were on the campaign trail or not, clearly this was something that generated a lot of coverage over the past two years. And I think Ambassador Rice was simply restating the position that the president had,” he said.

Gibbs did not offer any specific initiatives on dealing with Iran, but said Rice’s remarks should come as no surprise.

“This administration is going to use all elements of our national power to address concerns” about Iran’s nuclear program. 

As for the Mitchell trip, Gibbs said Mitchell was ahead overseas “to begin the process that the president promised to be actively engaged in, the peace process there in the Middle East.”

State Department Spokesman Robert A. Wood said the purpose of the trip is to consult with regional leaders on a range of issues, including trying to contain smuggling into Gaza to prevent the rearming of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza. He said Mitchell will not meet with any Hamas leaders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

via Obama, Iran Talks Next? – First 100 Days of Presidency – Politics FOXNews.com .

Ahmadinejad Denies 9/11Happened

Ok the tinfoilist have already tried to play this one out and have been proven wrong. They have never been able to produce a single piece of evidence. Now Ahmadinejad, the terrorist president of Iran, has declared that 9/11 did not actually happen. I guess that since he was not allowed to the site of the World Trade Centers, that  is evidence that the attack never took place. What an asshat.

This is more rhetoric from a little man who needs to stay in the spot light. I thinks that Hugo Chavez will be coming out with similar rhetoric soon.

I find it interesting that he makes this public announcement in conjuction with his refusal to abide by UN Resolutions… Hmmm.

In his most provocative anti-US speech to date, Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised doubts about whether al Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001 attack on New York actually took place. He was addressing Iran’s Nuclear Technology day, April 8, DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report. He went on to ask why the US had never released the names of the thousands of dead in the Trade Center attacks and how the most advanced security, intelligence and tracking devices in the world had failed to detect the hijackers’ planes before they struck the two New York towers.

Ahmadinejad is famous also for denying the Nazi Holocaust.

Announcing earlier that Iran had begun installing 6,000 new advanced (P2) centrifuges for uranium enrichment at Natanz, the Iranian president claimed his country’s nuclear program had passed the point of no-return technologically and politically.

America is disintegrating politically, militarily and economically, according to Ahmadinejad, who boasted that Iran’s nuclear achievement is a turning-point in history that will change the international order prevailing since World War II.

He asked why everyone jumps on Iran’s nuclear program when “a band of international pirates has stores crammed with nuclear bombs.”

DEBKAfile adds: By going full steam ahead with uranium enrichment, Iran is flouting three UN Security Council resolutions and standing fast against threats, sanctions and incentives offered by the West to halt a process capable of producing nuclear weapons.

Instead, Tehran is installing a new generation of advanced P2 centrifuges to replace the older P-1 machines and accelerate enrichment. He claims they are five times cheaper than the commercial machines.

The five Security Council members and Germany meet later this month for their umpteenth discussion on Iran’s nuclear activities. However, aside from “sweetening” their incentives package and tighter sanctions, they have run out of ideas for curbing Iran’s rapidly-advancing nuclear plans.

China Hands Over Intel Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program

China, a long time defender of Iran over it’s potential nuclear weapons program, has turned over intel regarding the program. China is probably in a good position to actually reveal what Iran’s intentions are as it is believed they helped Iran develope their nuclear program.  This is a turning point for Iran, as one of their staunchest allies is afraid enough of what Iran’s plans are, they are releasing their information on it.

VIENNA, Austria —  China, an opponent of harsh U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran, has nonetheless recently provided the International Atomic Energy Agency with intelligence linked to Tehran’s alleged attempts to make nuclear arms, diplomats have told The Associated Press.

Beijing, along with Moscow, has acted as a brake within the council, consistently watering down a U.S.-led push to impose severe penalties on Tehran for its nuclear defiance since the first set of sanctions was passed in late 2006.

A Chinese decision to provide information for use in the agency’s attempts to probe Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program would appear to reflect growing international unease about how honest the Islamic republic has been in denying it ever tried to make such arms.

The new development was revealed by two senior diplomats who closely follow the IAEA probe of Iran’s nuclear program. One commented late last week and the other Wednesday.

The IAEA declined comment, and nobody was picking up phones at the Iranian and Chinese missions to the IAEA.

John Bolton, the previous U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and before that the U.S. undersecretary of state in charge of the Iran nuclear dossier, said any such Chinese move would be “potentially significant” because of Beijing’s former military ties to Tehran. /**/

In a telephone call from Washington, Bolton said America believed that the Chinese had helped Iran develop its nuclear program, particularly in one area of uranium enrichment, “plus they had cooperation on ballistic missile programs as well.”

The diplomats said Beijing was the most surprising entry among a fairly substantial list of nations recently forwarding information to the agency that adds to previously provided intelligence, and which could be relevant in attempts to probe Iran for past or present nuclear weapons research.

But they said several other countries not normally considered to be in the anti-Iran camp had also done so in recent weeks.

The diplomats — who demanded anonymity because their information was confidential — declined to name individual nations. But they attributed a generally increased flow of information to the U.N. nuclear watchdog to concerns sparked by a multimedia presentation to the 35 IAEA board members by the agency in February about intelligence previously forwarded by member states on Iran’s alleged clandestine nuclear arms program.

One of the diplomats said the agency also was on the lookout for misleading information provided it, either inadvertently or in attempts to falsely implicate Iran.

One example, he said was a document showing experiments with implosion technology that can be used to detonate a nuclear device. While the document appeared genuine, it was unclear whether it originated from Iran, said the diplomat.

Suspected weapons-related work outlined in the February presentation and IAEA reports preceding it include:

—uranium conversion linked to high explosives testing and designs of a missile re-entry vehicle, all apparently interconnected through involvement of officials and institutions;

—procurement of so-called “dual use” equipment and experiments that also could be used in both civilian and military nuclear programs; and

—Iran’s possession of a 15-page document outlining how to form uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.

A U.S. intelligence estimate late last year said Tehran worked on nuclear weapons programs until 2003, while Israel and other nations say such work continued past that date.

Tehran continues uranium enrichment, which can generate the fissile core of nuclear warheads, and has led to three sets of Security Council sanctions but insists it is developing the technology only for its other use — power generation.

It denies ever trying to make atomic arms and last month declared the issue of its purported nuclear weapons strivings — and any attempt to investigate them — closed, asserting that information suggesting it ever had a nascent nuclear arms program is fabricated.

But the agency has signaled it is not giving up on its efforts to investigate purported military aspects of Tehran’s nuclear activities. Other diplomats told the AP that deputy director general Olli Heinonen planned to meet in the next few days with Ali-Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s chief delegate to the agency, to press for answers.

Ahead of that tentative meeting, Gregory L. Schulte, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, urged Tehran to end its stonewalling. He told the AP that with the next IAEA report due in about two months, time was running out for Iran to “explain these serious indications of troubling activities.”

An IAEA report in February said suspicions about most past Iranian nuclear activities had eased or been laid to rest. But it also noted that Iran had rejected the information provided by IAEA member nations to the agency for its probe of suspected weapons research as false and irrelevant.

It also noted that Iran had blocked agency requests to talk to key officials suspected of possible involvement in past military nuclear programs, among them one identified by diplomats as nuclear engineer Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

They told the AP that he and others active as academics in Iran’s civilian nuclear faculties are suspected by the agency of key roles in secret nuclear activities with a possible military dimension, including the procurement of “dual use” equipment.

In a summary recently forwarded to the AP, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group that claims to have informants inside the Iranian government, identified three others as Revolutionary Guard commander Fereydoon Abbasi, Seyed Jaber Safdari and Mohammed Mehdi Nejad-Nouri.

It said the three and others are involved in clandestine nuclear weapons-related research at three Iranian universities: Beheshti; Malek Ahstar and Imam Hossein.

Asked for verification, a senior diplomat of an IAEA member state said that a fact check run by his country’s relevant agency showed the claims to be generally accurate. Another senior diplomat also said the information appeared to be fairly reliable.

Saddam’s Downfall

Here’s another story the liberal media does not want you to know. They are so intent on chanting that Bush Lied that they want to bury the truth.

The truth is simple, Saddam Hussein had a program to convince the world that he had weaopons of mass destruction and had all intentions of starting it up once the heat was off. He had the assests in place to resume the program at will, sort of like Iran’s “suspended” nuke program…

The program was so good they he believed it himself…

But the liberals will keep chanting that Bush Lied… Wake up, it is only a lie if he knew it to be false and said it anyways… Bush, Congress, intel agencies around the world, governments around the world believed that he had weapons of mass destruction. The liars are the ones that deny they believed it or campaign that they only believed it because of Bush’s lies…

NEW YORK – Saddam Hussein allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction to deter rival Iran and did not think the United States would stage a major invasion, according to an FBI interrogator who questioned the Iraqi leader after his capture.

Saddam expected only a limited aerial attack by the United States and thought he could remain in control, the FBI special agent, George Piro, told CBS’s “60 Minutes” program in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

“He told me he initially miscalculated … President Bush’s intentions,” said Piro. “He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 … a four-day aerial attack.”

“He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack,” Piro said.

In 2003, a close aide of Saddam’s told The Associated Press that Saddam did not expect a U.S. invasion and deliberately kept the world guessing about his weapons program, although he already had gotten rid of it.

Keeping up the illusion of weapons program
Saddam publicly denied having unconventional weapons before the U.S. invasion, but prevented U.N. inspectors from working in the country from 1998 until 2002 and when they finally returned in November 2002, they often complained that Iraq wasn’t fully cooperating.

Piro, a Lebanese-American who speaks Arabic, debriefed Saddam after he was found in an underground hideout near his home city north of Baghdad in December 2003, nine months after the U.S. invasion.

Piro said Saddam also said that he wanted to keep up the illusion that he had the program in part because he thought it would deter a likely Iranian invasion.

“For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that (faking having the weapons) would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq,” Piro told Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes.”

Piro added that Saddam had the intention of restarting an Iraqi weapons program at the time, and had engineers available for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Kuwait invasion after insult to Iraqi women
Piro also mentioned Saddam’s revelation during questioning that what pushed him to invade Kuwait in 1990 was a dishonorable swipe at Iraqi women made by the Kuwaiti leader, Sheik Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah.

During the buildup to the invasion, Iraq had accused Kuwait of flooding the world market with oil and demanded compensation for oil produced from a disputed area on the border of the two countries.

Piro said that Al Sabah told the foreign minister of Iraq during a discussion aimed at resolving some of those conflicts that “he would not stop doing what he was doing until he turned every Iraqi woman into a $10 prostitute. And that really sealed it for him, to invade Kuwait,” said Piro.

Pakistan Descending Into Dismal Pit

A dark day in Pakistan with the terrorist assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto , who recently returned from exile. President Musharraf is taking the brunt of the public’s anger even though it is believed to be Islamic terrorist who executed the shooting and bombing.

The people of Pakistan need to get a grip and stop the rioting and protesting Musharraf and help the authorities apprehend those that worked with the suicide bomber. Enough with the sheltering of terrorists, aiding them, helping them move freely through your villages. It is time to bring them to justice.

These terrorists are killing your own people, stand up and fight the right enemy.

Do not disgrace her memory with this animal behavior, instead honor her by doing the right thing.

This is the second time Musharraf has face a large violent backlash, which could topple his government and allow nuclear arms to fall into terrorists hands, the unseen plan that the media does not report on.

Additionally this falls into the standard MO for al Qaeda to attack just before an election to try and influence it. In this case I guess their thinking is that Musharraf is the lesser of two evils.

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan —  Pakistan’s paramilitary forces were on red alert Thursday following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

The former prime minister was murdered by an attacker who shot her in the neck and chest after a campaign rally and then blew himself up. Her death stoked new chaos across the nuclear-armed nation, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

At least 20 others were also killed in the homicide bombing that immediately followed Bhutto’s shooting.

Bhutto’s supporters erupted in anger and grief after her killing, attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities. At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed, chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf blamed Islamic extremists for Bhutto’s death and said he would redouble his efforts to fight them.

“This is the work of those terrorists with whom we are engaged in war,” he said in a nationally televised speech. “I have been saying that the nation faces the greatest threats from these terrorists. … We will not rest until we eliminate these terrorists and root them out.”

In the U.S., President Bush strongly condemned the attack “by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy.”

Musharraf convened an emergency meeting with his senior staff, where they were expected to discuss whether to postpone the elections, an official at the Interior Ministry said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

The attacker struck just minutes after Bhutto, 54, addressed thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, 8 miles south of Islamabad. She was shot in the neck and chest by the attacker, who then blew himself up, said Rehman Malik, Bhutto’s security adviser.

Sardar Qamar Hayyat, a leader from Bhutto’s party, said he was standing about 10 yard away from her vehicle at the time of the attack.

“She was inside the vehicle and was coming out from the gate after addressing the rally when some of the youths started chanting slogans in her favor. Then I saw a smiling Bhutto emerging from the vehicle’s roof and responding to their slogans,” he said.

“Then I saw a thin, young man jumping toward her vehicle from the back and opening fire. Moments later, I saw her speeding vehicle going away,” he added.

Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery. She died about an hour after the attack.

A doctor on the team that treated her said she had a bullet in the back of the neck that damaged her spinal cord before exiting from the side of her head. Another bullet pierced the back of her shoulder and came out through her chest.

She was given open heart massage, but the main cause of death was damage to her spinal cord, the doctor said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“At 6:16 p.m., she expired,” said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto’s party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital.

“The surgeons confirmed that she has been martyred,” Bhutto’s lawyer Babar Awan said.

Bhutto’s supporters at the hospital exploded in anger, smashing the glass door at the main entrance of the emergency unit. Others burst into tears. One man with a flag of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party tied around his head was beating his chest.

“I saw her with my own eyes sitting in a vehicle after addressing the rally. Then, I heard an explosion,” Tahir Mahmood, 55, said sobbing. “I am in shock. I cannot believe that she is dead.”

Many chanted slogans against Musharraf, accusing him of complicity in her killing.

“We repeatedly informed the government to provide her proper security and appropriate equipment … but they paid no heed to our requests,” Malik said.

As news of her death spread, angry supporters took to the streets.

In Karachi, shop owners quickly closed their businesses as protesters set tires on fire on the roads, torched several vehicles and burned a gas station, said Fayyaz Leghri, a local police official. Gunmen shot and wounded two police officers, he said.

In Rawalpindi, the site of the attack, Bhutto’s supporters burned election posters from the ruling party and attacked police, who fled from the scene. Violence also broke out in Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and many other parts of Pakistan, where Bhutto’s supporters set fire to a bus, pelted stones at shops and blocked city roads.

Musharraf, who announced three days of mourning for Bhutto, urged calm.

“I want to appeal to the nation to remain peaceful and exercise restraint,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif, another former premier and opposition leader, arrived at the hospital and sat silently next to Bhutto’s body.

“Benazir Bhutto was also my sister, and I will be with you to take the revenge for her death,” he said. “Don’t feel alone. I am with you. We will take the revenge on the rulers.”

He later announced that his party would boycott the Jan. 8 elections, and he called for Musharraf to step down immediately.

“The holding of fair and free elections is not possible in the presence of Pervez Musharraf,” Sharif said at a news conference. “After the killing of Benazir Bhutto, I announce that the Pakistan Muslim League-N will boycott the elections.”

He added: “I demand that Musharraf should quit immediately.”

Hours earlier, four people were killed at a rally for Sharif when his supporters clashed with backers of Musharraf near Rawalpindi.

Hours after her death, Bhutto’s body was carried out of the hospital in a plain wooden coffin by a crowd of supporters. Her body was expected to be transferred to an air base and brought to her hometown of Larkana.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who met with Bhutto just hours before her death, called her a brave woman with a clear vision “for her own country, for Afghanistan and for the region — a vision of democracy and prosperity and peace.”

Bhutto’s death will leave a void at the top of her party, the largest political group in the country, as it heads into the elections. It also fueled fears that the crucial vote could descend into violence.

Pakistan is considered a vital U.S. ally in the fight against Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists including the Taliban. Usama bin Laden and his inner circle are believed to be hiding in lawless northwest Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan.

The U.S. has invested significant diplomatic capital in promoting reconciliation between Musharraf and the opposition, particularly Bhutto, who was seen as having a wide base of support in Pakistan. Her party had been widely expected to do well in next month’s elections.

Bush, speaking briefly to reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanded that those responsible for the killing be brought to justice.

“The United States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are trying to undermine Pakistan’s democracy,” Bush said.

Pakistan was just emerging from another crisis after Musharraf declared a state of emergency on Nov. 3, and used sweeping powers to round up thousands of his opponents and fire Supreme Court justices. He ended emergency rule Dec. 15 and subsequently relinquished his role as army chief, a key opposition demand. Bhutto had been an outspoken critic of Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule.

Educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, Bhutto served twice as Pakistan’s prime minister between 1988 and 1996.

Her father was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, scion of a wealthy landowning family in southern Pakistan and founder of the populist Pakistan People’s Party. The elder Bhutto was president and then prime minister of Pakistan before his ouster in a 1977 military coup. Two years later, he was executed by the government of Gen. Zia-ul Haq after being convicted of engineering the murder of a political opponent.

Bhutto had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18. On the same day, she narrowly escaped injury when her homecoming parade in Karachi was targeted in a suicide attack that killed more than 140 people.

Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban hated Bhutto for her close ties to the Americans and support for the war on terrorism. A local Taliban leader reportedly threatened to greet Bhutto’s return to the country with suicide bombings.

At the scene of Thursday’s bombing, an Associated Press reporter saw body parts and flesh scattered at the back gate of the Liaqat Bagh park, where Bhutto had spoken. He counted about 20 bodies, including police, and could see many other wounded people.

Police cordoned off the street with white and red tape, and rescuers rushed to put victims in ambulances as people wailed nearby.

The clothing of some victims was shredded and people put party flags over their bodies. Police caps and shoes littered the asphalt.

Hundreds of riot police had manned security checkpoints around the venue. It was Bhutto’s first public meeting in Rawalpindi since she came back to the country.

In November, Bhutto had also planned a rally in the city, but Musharraf forced her to cancel it, citing security fears.

In recent weeks, suicide bombers have repeatedly targeted security forces in Rawalpindi, where Musharraf stays and the Pakistan army has its headquarters.