Asia

Pakistan's ailing President Zardari says he is 'fine'

File photo of President Asif Ali Zardari in November 2011
Image caption President Zardari was described as 'coherent'

Pakistan's ailing President, Asif Ali Zardari, says he is "fine" and will return home soon, according to one of the country's most senior journalists.

Hamid Mir says he spoke to the president by telephone. The news anchor later told Reuters that Mr Zardari was "coherent, well-informed".

It is the first time the president has spoken to the media since he went to Dubai for heart treatment.

His departure led to rumours - denied by officials - that he might resign.

It is believed the reported call was aimed at dampening down speculation about his health, after a number of statements from his spokesman failed to remove doubts.

It remains unclear how long Mr Zardari's treatment in Dubai will take.

Hamid Mir works for private TV news channel Geo - seen as very critical of the president.

He quoted Mr Zardari as saying: "I did not want to leave. My children and friends and the prime minister insisted that I go for a check-up.

"Those that run from the country run with their kids... My enemies will be disappointed."

A controversial political figure, President Zardari came to power after his Pakistan People's Party won elections in 2008.

The party had been led by his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, until she was assassinated in 2007.

Torrid year

Pakistan's civilian government has been under pressure in recent weeks after a scandal over a leaked memo in which officials allegedly sought US help against a possible military coup earlier this year. It resulted in the resignation of Pakistan's envoy to the US.

President Zardari's spokesman has said his medical tests and check-up in a Dubai hospital were planned.

Doctors treating Mr Zardari have described his condition as stable and "investigations carried out so far are within normal range", the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, said on Wednesday.

President Zardari has been at the helm during a torrid year for Pakistan, which has seen relations with the US deteriorate sharply after the raid which killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Since then, several senior US officials have accused Pakistan of backing militant groups that carry out attacks against Western and Afghan troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has vehemently denied such allegations.

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