Kerry heads for Pak to soothe fury over bin Laden
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Last Updated: Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 22:17
  
Islamabad: Senator John Kerry will travel to Pakistan in coming days to put relations "on the right track" after the killing of Osama bin Laden in a surprise Navy SEALs raid, but he is likely to face fury from the army over what it sees as a breach of trust.

Kerry, a Democrat who is close to the Obama administration, said he expected to see "all the main players" in Pakistan to discuss strains in bilateral ties following the May 2 operation that killed the al Qaeda leader in his Pakistani hideout.

"A number of people suggested it would be good to get a dialogue going about the aftermath and how we get on the right track," Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters in Washington.

Co-author of a 2009 bill that tripled non-military aid to Islamabad, Kerry is seen as a friend of the country, but he is likely to face the wrath of the powerful security establishment which has been embarrassed by the unilateral US action on Pakistani soil.

Militant factions including bin Laden's al Qaeda have vowed revenge for his killing and two hand grenades were thrown at the Saudi Arabian consulate in the Pakistani city of Karachi although no one was hurt, police said.

Al Qaeda is violently opposed to the Saudi government but Karachi police said it was too early to say if the attack was linked to the death of the Saudi-born militant chief.= A senior Pakistani security official said the U.S. operation to kill bin Laden had left the army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency -- which has a long history of contacts with militants -- "discredited in the eyes of the public."

"We are very angry about this breach of trust," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The space for cooperating with the Americans on military and intelligence operations has been shrunk because of this incident."

Pakistani cooperation is crucial for Washington's efforts to combat Islamist militants and bring stability to Afghanistan, and the US administration appears keen to contain the fallout.

"WE WOULDN'T BE SO NAIVE"

Nevertheless, US lawmakers have questioned whether Pakistan is serious about fighting militants in the region after bin Laden was found living in a house just a few minutes' walk from the country's main military academy. Some have called for a suspension in U.S. aid to Islamabad.

Pakistan rejects allegations that it was either incompetent in tracking down the man behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States or complicit in hiding him in the town of Abbottabad just 50 km (30 miles) from Islamabad.

"We wouldn't be naive enough to be complicit in this affair. We would be risking not only the future of our country, but also the future of our children," the official said, adding that if there was a support network protecting bin Laden it did not come from within Pakistan's security establishment.

Kerry has travelled to Pakistan before to try to tamp down crises. He was there in February to try to win the release of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor and former US special forces member who shot dead two Pakistanis in the city of Lahore.

Davis, who said he acted in self defense, was freed in March after "blood money" -- compensation to the families of those killed -- was paid, Pakistani and U.S. officials said.

"STEALTH" HELICOPTER REMAINS

The United States is hoping to question the three wives of bin Laden who were left in the Abbottabad compound after US raid and are now being detained, although Pakistani officials played down the possibility of any speedy access.

U.S. investigators, who have been sifting through a huge stash of material seized during the operation, believe the wives could help them trace bin Laden's movements and his network.

ABC News quoted Pakistani officials as saying that they were interested in studying the remains of a U.S. helicopter that crashed during the Navy SEALs' raid, which experts believe was a version of the Blackhawk modified with stealth features.

One official told the network that China, an ally of Pakistan, was interested in examining the remains of the helicopter and another said "We might let them take a look."

But Pakistani military officials dismissed the report saying there was no intention to give the wreckage to China, nor had China asked to see it.

"Someone's aiming to spread alarm," one official said.

"There are so many other things to be sorted out, it's not a priority," he said, when asked if the helicopter was an issue in talks with the United States.

Pakistan says bin Laden's death is an important step in the fight against militancy but it is angry that it was not informed about it and that US forces violated its sovereignty when they swooped in on helicopters from Afghanistan.

Current and former U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the United States repeatedly told Pakistan that Washington would send American forces into that country if it had evidence bin Laden was hiding there.

Bureau Report


First Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 22:17


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