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Bhutto To Stay In Britain

An embattled Benazir Bhutto said Friday she won't return to Pakistan from Britain until she is certain she won't be sent to jail.

The former prime minister's comments contradicted her earlier pledge to return to Pakistan to appeal her conviction in absentia last week on corruption charges and five-year prison sentence.

"I thought I would go back to Pakistan ... then I realized I shouldn't be foolish or rash," Bhutto said in a telephone interview. "For the time being, I see no point in coming back and walking into prison."

Both Bhutto and her imprisoned husband, Asif Ali Zardari, were convicted of taking kickbacks on government contracts. Asif also received a five-year jail sentence. The couple was fined $8.6 million and banned from politics, and the court also ordered the confiscation of their property, worth an estimated $100 million.

On Thursday, the government issued the official order for her arrest.

Pakistan's chief election commissioner on Saturday is expected to officially remove Bhutto and her husband from parliament, where she is the leader of the opposition in the lower house and he is a member of the senate. Bhutto's lawyers are expected to ask the commissioner to delay her disqualification until after the Supreme Court decides her appeal.

Bhutto was twice elected prime minister of Pakistan. Both her governments were sacked on charges of corruption and misuse of power. The current charges stem from her second term, which ended in 1996.

Bhutto, Pakistan's first and only female prime minister, steadfastly maintains her innocence and says the government is targeting her to destroy the political opposition.

"I never influenced the awarding of a contract and until my dying day I will stand by it," said Bhutto.

She also accused the judge who presided over her corruption trial of bias.

The judge's father was among a panel of jurists who sentenced Bhutto's father, the late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to death for allegedly ordering the killing of an opponent. He was removed from power and hanged in the late 1970s.

"That case was 20 years ago," said Pakistan's Law Minister Khalid Anwar, dismissing Bhutto's allegations.

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