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AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.On Friday, U.S. officials acknowledged that there was no clear basis for confidence that the two leaders could work cooperatively. Now that Bhutto had returned to Pakistan, they acknowledged their control over events was limited, as Thursday’s bombing showed. “There’s really not much left to say or do at this point,” one Bush administration official said, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak publicly about U.S. policy on Pakistan. “But there’s no clear indication that there is a foundation for both sides to work together cooperatively.” Bhutto used her time in exile to nurture influential connections within Washington’s power corridors. Still, the Bush administration had long kept her at arm’s length, in large part out of deference to Musharraf, who cast his lot with the White House after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Two years ago, Bhutto could not even get the State Department’s top official for South Asia to show up at a posh dinner party in her honor. (A desk officer in charge of Pakistan was sent instead.) But in recent months that began to change. The U.S. courtship of Bhutto included a private dinner and a jet ride with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and, over the last month, several telephone calls to Bhutto from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. WASHINGTON – To lay the groundwork for Benazir Bhutto’s return to Pakistan, some of the highest-ranking officials in the Bush administration lavished attention on her as they worked to broker a power-sharing arrangement between Bhutto and her longtime rival, President Pervez Musharraf. But the violence that greeted Bhutto on her return after eight years in exile and the finger-pointing between her camp and Musharraf’s after the attack on her motorcade on Thursday has raised questions about whether the tenuous deal that the United States helped midwife can survive. Bush administration officials on Friday publicly played down the potential for a deepening rift between Musharraf and Bhutto, pointing out that the opposition leader herself had praised the rescue efforts of Pakistan’s security forces after Thursday’s attack and that Musharraf had called Bhutto to make sure she was safe after the blast. But unresolved questions about the attack have added a new layer of distrust to relations between Bhutto and the government, as well as new uncertainties for the Bush administration policy. In turning back to Bhutto, administration officials said they acted with reluctance, after Musharraf’s own political missteps and the mounting opposition to his military government had weakened his grip on power and threatened to plunge Pakistan deeper into turmoil. The administration concluded over the summer that a power-sharing deal with Bhutto might be the only way that Musharraf could keep from being toppled. They began quietly nurturing the accord, under which Bhutto’s party did not boycott Musharraf’s election in September, and the president issued a decree granting Bhutto and others amnesty for recent corruption charges, opening the way for her return. Administration officials say that Rice stepped up her personal involvement in September, when it seemed possible that Musharraf’s other political nemesis, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, would make his own bid to return to power, and upset the deal. Still, even now, there is no great love in the Bush administration for Bhutto. While U.S. intelligence officials have been frustrated at times with Musharraf’s record in fighting the Islamic militants in northern Pakistan, they have also found a small level of comfort in dealing with him. Now they worry that Bhutto’s re-entry to Pakistan’s political scene will complicate their lagging efforts to pursue al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents. State Department bureaucrats also fret that her turbulent past will further inflame an already volatile country. Inside and outside the U.S. bureaucracy, there remains deep skepticism that the arrangement between two longtime enemies has a chance for long-term success. “This backroom deal I think is going to explode in our face,” said Bruce Riedel, who advised three presidents on South Asian issues and is now at the Brookings Institution. “Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf detest each other, and the concept that they can somehow work collaboratively is a real stretch.” Before she left for Pakistan and since her return, Bhutto has publicly pressed an agenda that should please U.S. policymakers: advocating democracy and attacking suicide bombing and Islamic militancy in words more forceful than those normally used by Musharraf.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!