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U.N. moves toward Bhutto death inquiry

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  • NEW: Ban and Qureshi reached "broad understanding" on the commission
  • Cause of Bhutto's death is in dispute
  • Scotland Yard probe supported government conclusion on cause of death
  • Polls show many Pakistanis believe Musharraf government complicit
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The United Nations moved closer to appointing a commission to investigate the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto after a meeting between Pakistan's foreign minister and the world body's secretary-general.

A supporter of Benazir Bhutto holds a picture of her at a Pakistan People's Party rally last February.

Pakistan FM Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi made the request on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi formally made the request Thursday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who "responded positively to the issue," according to a statement from the United Nations.

The statement said that the two reached "broad understanding" on several issues, including funding, composition of the commission and unhindered access to resources, but added that the secretary-general indicated further discussions with Pakistan and other U.N. members would be needed before the commission could be set to work.

The secretary-general, however, indicated further discussions with Pakistan and other U.N. members would be needed before the commission could be set to work, the statement added.

Bhutto was killed December 27 in Rawalpindi, south of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, while she was standing in an armored moving car rallying supporters for parliamentary elections. Her head was above the roof and unprotected at the time of the attack.

The cause of her death is in dispute. A bomber blew himself up near her car, and videotape showed a gunman present.

In the hours after her assassination, Pakistan's Interior Ministry said she died from a bullet or shrapnel wound. But the day after her death, officials said she died from a skull fracture suffered when she fell or ducked into the car as a result of the shots or explosion and her head crashed into a sunroof latch.

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In February, the Interior Ministry said Scotland Yard investigators agreed with the latter conclusion. "What the government had said on the 28 December was not a knee-jerk reaction," ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema said at the time. "Whatever I had said was based on certain hard facts."

Bhutto's family and her Pakistan People's Party (PPP), meanwhile, has vehemently insisted she was shot by an assassin's bullet. However, relatives have refused to carry out an autopsy on her body. Video Watch reaction to the Scotland Yard investigation »

In April, Pakistan's National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a U.N. probe into Bhutto's death -- a move that was not surprising, given that the government and parliament elected in February is dominated by a coalition led by the PPP.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf initially balked at a U.N. inquiry into Bhutto's death. His government -- ousted from power in February -- had contended the killing was orchestrated by Baitullah Mehsud, a leader of the Pakistani Taliban with ties to al Qaeda.

The CIA reached the same conclusion. But two nationwide polls conducted this year found that a majority of Pakistanis believe Musharraf's government was complicit in Bhutto's assassination.


Qureshi met with Ban Thursday regarding the probe. His request will likely need the approval of others within the United Nations and perhaps the U.N. Security Council.

The investigation should be done in the shortest possible time, Qureshi said, but he added that he cannot dictate its terms. He said investigators would have unhindered access to sources of information.

CNN's Richard Roth contributed to this report.

All About PakistanBenazir BhuttoPoliticsUnited Nations

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