LAHORE - President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday said he was offered a deal to flee the country but he turned it down, vowing that he would “live and die on his motherland”.

“I was told that a plane was ready for me and that I should proceed abroad. But I turned down the offer telling them that my heart beats for the poor”, he said in his address to members of Peoples’ Lawyers Forum.

Those who are weak [leaders] flee the country by making deals, he said in an implicit reference to Sharif family’s departure to Jeddah after military takeover of General Musharraf.

But later while talking to reporters, the president said he considered PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif as an elder brother, but regretted that the latter did not stand by him on many issues.

To a question, he said he was a ‘powerless president’ as he had relinquished all the powers to the parliament. On resumption of Nato supplies, he said parliament would decide on the issue and all options would be laid on the table. He regretted that world powers had been using Pakistan to promote their respective agendas.

“They first tried to weaken our country through different means and now they are bent upon its division”, he remarked without naming any country. “Rotten eggs were put into Pakistan’s basket (an obvious reference to Jehadis and Taliban) which produced chicks (more jehadis) and now we have been left at their mercy”, he complained.

About slow progress on BB’s murder case, the president said that all persons involved in the conspiracy have been arrested and FIA had completed the investigation. He added that government had done its part and now the court has to take some decision on it.

“Though Baitullah Mehsood was the mastermind, but I don’t blame him either. I hold responsible the mindset that acted behind the scene and led to her (Benazir) assassination… This particular mindset needs to be changed”.

Responding to another question, he said he was confident his party would come to power again after the next elections; but he was also mentally prepared to sit in the opposition if people did not vote the PPP to power again.

He said he believed he served Pakistan with dignity and by upholding the constitution, adding that no one could hold this against him. “The secret to my success is trust in God.”