( Reuters ) - Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said on Monday that she might allow a U.S. military strike inside Pakistan to eliminate al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden if she were the country's leader.
"I would hope that I would be able to take Osama bin Laden myself without depending on the Americans. But if I couldn't do it, of course we are fighting this war together and (I) would seek their cooperation in eliminating him," Bhutto said in an interview on BBC World News America.
Bhutto, who has vowed to return to Pakistan on October 18 after eight years of exile, was speaking less than a week before an October 6 election that President Pervez Musharraf is expected to win despite his slumping popularity.
She has been in talks with Musharraf about a post-election power-sharing deal that would shore up his position, which has become more precarious amid violent clashes with Islamist militants.
U.S. intelligence officials believe bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders are being protected by tribal leaders in an area of northwestern Pakistan near the Afghanistan border that is largely inaccessible even to Pakistani forces.
Bush administration officials fear that unilateral U.S. action against the al Qaeda safe haven could destabilize Pakistan and jeopardize the government of Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in Washington's struggle against militants.
Asked by the BBC whether she would agree to let the Americans take action against bin Laden in Pakistan, Bhutto said her decision would depend on the strength of the evidence.
"I think one really needs to see the information. So I would really, really need to see the evidence," she said, according to a transcript of the BBC interview.
"But if there was evidence, my first reference would be to go in myself and if ... there was a difficulty on that I'd like to cooperate with the Americans."
Bhutto has remained in exile rather than face corruption charges at home. On Monday, one of her lawyers filed an application for bail in case authorities arrest her when she returns.