US Offers a Tentative Hand to Nawaz Sharif

After Bhutto's death, Washington surveys a new political scene
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2008 7:43 AM CST
Pakistan former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses his supporters in Wazirabad near Lahore, Pakistan on Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2007. Sharif is on election campaign for the coming Pakistan's general election....   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – With Benazir Bhutto gone and elections postponed, the White House is taking stock of its options in Pakistan and cautiously reaching out to a man they had once cold-shouldered: Nawaz Sharif. The prime minister whom Pervez Musharraf deposed in his 1999 bloodless coup is looking increasingly attractive to Washington, writes the Christian Science Monitor, even though Sharif is hardly a friend of America.

The US was integral in getting Sharif to call off his boycott of parliamentary elections after Bhutto's assassination, although the voting delay until Feb. 18 may have changed his position. Sharif spent his exile in Saudi Arabia and enjoys warm relations with the royal family. That's increasingly attractive to the US, says one analyst: in a volatile situation, a friend of an American ally—especially one not likely to be in bed with Iran—might be the best Washington can hope for.