US, Pakistani officials try to reconcile

By Sebastian Abbot and Kimberly Dozier
Associated Press / May 20, 2011

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ISLAMABAD — Top US officials tried yesterday to patch up relations with Pakistani leaders miffed over the surprise American raid that killed Osama bin Laden, even as members of Congress called for cuts in aid to Pakistan over suspicions that elements of its security forces sheltered the Al Qaeda chief.

High-level talks by the deputy director of the CIA and President Obama’s special envoy underlined the strong mutual dependency of the two countries, despite the bad blood over the bin Laden killing. The United States needs Pakistan to help resolve the war in Afghanistan, and American funds are critical for propping up Pakistan’s economy and bankrolling its military.

Marc Grossman, the Obama administration’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, met with President Asif Ali Zardari and other senior Pakistani officials to discuss relations in the wake of the May 2 bin Laden raid, the president’s office said.

Michael Morell, deputy director of the CIA, was set to meet with Pakistani intelligence chief Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, said Pakistani officials briefed on the visit. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity.

The officials said that while they considered it a positive sign that a high-ranking US intelligence official was making the trip, they expected little concrete to come out of it.

The relationship between the CIA and Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency is key to the US fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But the relationship was strained even before US Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, and has reached a new low since.

A survey taken before the bin Laden raid by the Washington-based Pew Research Center showed US popularity in Pakistan has fallen to an all-time low. Just 11 percent of Pakistanis hold a favorable view of the United States and Obama. The survey, released Tuesday, polled 1,970 people in Pakistan in April. top stories on Twitter

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