US waiting for Pak confirmation on access to bin Laden's wives

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Washington, May 11: The US has not received any firm commitment from Pakistan on it being given access to the wives of Osama bin Laden, who were detained by authorities after the killing of al-Qaeda chief in Abbottabad last week.

Several US officials told reporters that talks in this regard with Pakistani authorities are still going on.

Even though they are hopeful that they would finally get an access, officials said, quite a few hurdles have to be covered before Pakistan a firm commitment from Pakistan on this issue.

"We have seen conflicting reports about whether US would access to the women from the (Abbottabad) compound.

There are ongoing discussions. I do not have anything to confirm or deny. We continue to work with the Pakistanis on information sharing," Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan told reporters during an off camera press briefing yesterday.

"I have seen conflicting reports. My understating is that we are still discussing this with the Pakistanis," Lapan said in response to another question, which was echoed by his State Department counterpart Mark Toner later in the day.

"We are in discussions with the Pakistani authorities. There's a variety of sources of information that we're seeking access to related to bin Laden's house and the people there. We believe we're going to get there and we''re making progress," Toner told reporters.

"We are continuing to work with Pakistan to make sure that we have access to any information that could contribute to our common goal here, which is continue our counter- terrorism cooperation and making progress against extremists in Pakistan and elsewhere. We believe we're making progress and we're optimistic that we''ll be able to work through any obstacles and increase our information sharing," Toner said.

The US is seeking access to three of bin Laden's wives because the Administration believes that it's important to its ongoing counter-terrorism cooperation and efforts that they can provide valuable information.

"But as to their future, that's a matter for the Pakistani authorities," he said.

"We believe and are optimistic that we'll be able to work through obstacles in terms of information gathering and sharing. And again, I'm talking more broadly, about access to the wives," he said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said that Islamabad has not received a formal request from the US for access to or handing over bin Laden'' widows who are in the custody of authorities.

The US has not contacted Pakistan with regard to the issue of handing over bin Laden's widows, Bashir told reporters outside parliament.

PTI

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