NEW YORK - Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former prime minister, said in an interview that she would cooperate with the American military in targeting Osama bin Laden.
Bhutto told BBC America, in an interview scheduled to air last night, that she would accept US assistance in the event they discovered the whereabouts of the Al Qaeda leader, but that she would prefer to have the Pakistani military execute the strike.
"If there is overwhelming evidence, I would hope that I would be able to take Osama bin Laden myself without depending on the Americans," Bhutto last week during the taping. "But if I couldn't do it, of course we are fighting this war together and would seek their cooperation in eliminating him."
The United States has counted Pakistan as a close ally since the Sept. 11 attacks, and has often been accused of overlooking the abuses of President Pervez Musharraf's government in exchange for a strong partner on the border of Afghanistan.
Bhutto's comments go farther than the current government's position, which has long held such incursions to be a threat to its sovereignty. Islamabad protested loudly when Senator Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate, pledged to grant US forces the authority to unilaterally penetrate Pakistan in the hunt for terrorist leaders.
Bhutto has said Musharraf's undemocratic rule makes the country more unstable, and that the United States is wrong to support him. She has advocated that a return to democracy will make it easier to counter the Islamic militants who operate along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
"I'm a threat to extremists," Bhutto said in the interview. "While there may be people who oppose my return, I know that there are many more millions of Pakistanis that are just waiting for me to come back to see the forces of moderation and freedom strengthened in my country."
Bhutto plans to return to Pakistan this month to challenge Musharraf after eight years of self-imposed exile. In response to opposition pressure, Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, has said he will give up his post as army chief if he wins an Oct. 6 election. He also says he will restore civilian rule in a country that has lurched between unstable elected governments and military regimes during its 60-year history.