Old Rivals Agree to Form Coalition

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The widower of Benazir Bhutto held talks with leaders of his Pakistan People's Party on Monday to decide on a candidate for prime minister after agreeing on a coalition that could force President Pervez Musharraf from power.

Asif Ali Zardari, who became head of the PPP after Bhutto's assassination in December, signed an agreement on Sunday with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to form a coalition government.

The pact sets the scene for confrontation with U.S. ally Musharraf, particularly as Zardari and Sharif promised to reinstate judges Musharraf dismissed in November, just as they were expected to rule his October re-election by legislators, while still army chief, unconstitutional.

The two leaders also agreed that the PPP should nominate a candidate for prime minister as it won the most seats in Feb. 18 elections, though not enough to rule alone. Sharif's party came second while the main pro-Musharraf party came a poor third.

Zardari had begun sounding out members-elect of his party before deciding on a candidate, a party spokeswoman said.

"The members have reposed full confidence and given full authority to Mr Zardari to name the candidate for the prime minister," Sherry Rehman, a spokeswoman for the party, told reporters after Zardari met his party members-elect.

Consultations would continue over the next few days and Zardari would announce the candidate after Musharraf convened the first session of the new National Assembly, she said.

Musharraf said last week that it would be a week or more before the National Assembly was convened, but Sharif and Zardari said Sunday that the session should be called immediately.