A U.S. official says Pakistan has informed the U.S. that it will grant access to Osama bin Laden's wives, a key request by the White House.
Despite simmering relations between the two countries over the unannounced raid by Navy SEALs on Pakistani soil, the official said the U.S. expects to have access to bin Laden's three wives soon.
The White House said Monday that it was very interested in interviewing the women, who could provide information about bin Laden's life in hiding. The women have been in Pakistani custody since the SEALs helicoptered away from the compound with bin Laden's body.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions between the two countries. There was no immediate confirmation from Pakistan in the pre-dawn hours in Islamabad.
Bin Laden had "support network" inside Pakistan, Obama says
Questions have been raised over whether Pakistani officials had knowledge of bin Laden’s hiding spot. U.S. officials have said they see no evidence that anyone in the upper echelons of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment was complicit in hiding bin Laden in Abbottabad, an army town only 35 miles from the capital. But suspicions remain, and members of Congress have threatened to cut off U.S. aid if evidence is found.
“We think there had to be some sort of support network for bin laden inside Pakistan,” President Barack Obama said on 60 Minutes Sunday. “But we don't know who or what that support network was."
"We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate," Obama said.
The Pakistani military and intelligence services have suffered withering criticism at home for failing to stop the U.S. operation. Many Pakistanis view the raid as a violation of their sovereignty - even if they were pleased that bin Laden was killed.
U.S. officials have said they didn't tell Pakistanis in advance because they were worried someone might tip off bin Laden. American forces also used helicopters with radar-evading technology so the Pakistanis couldn't track them.
Pakistani prime minister: "We did not invite Osama bin Laden to Pakistan"
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani defended the military and intelligence services Monday, telling parliament it was "disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan ... for being in cahoots with al-Qaida."
He acknowledged his nation's failure to track bin Laden but said the failure wasn't Pakistan's alone. "Yes, there has been an intelligence failure," Gilani said. "It is not only ours but of all the intelligence agencies of the world."
"Pakistan is not the birthplace of Al Qaeda. We did not invite Osama bin Laden to Pakistan,” Gilani told Pakistan’s parliament Monday.
He lashed out at allegations Pakistan knew where bin Laden was hiding. He also warned the U.S. that any unilateral raids in the future would be met with "full force."
“We obviously take the statements and concerns of the Pakistani government seriously. But we also do not apologize for the actions that we took, that this president took," a White House spokesman said.
Name of CIA station chief leaked
Suspicion rose Monday that Pakistan's intelligence service leaked the name of the CIA chief in Islamabad to local media in anger over the raid that killed Osama bin Laden - the second outing of an American covert operative here in six months.
The U.S. said it has no plans to pull the spy chief, but the incident is likely to exacerbate an already troubled relationship between the two countries a week after Navy SEALs in helicopters swooped down on bin Laden's compound without first telling the Pakistanis. The CIA and Pakistan's spy agency have long viewed each other with suspicion, which the death of the terror leader has laid bare.
Gilani's speech and the suspected leak of the CIA station chief's name illustrate the balancing act that Pakistani officials seem to be trying to achieve in responding to the bin Laden raid.
Civilian and military leaders must placate a domestic population that is upset at the U.S. for violating the country's sovereignty and outraged at the country's army and intelligence agency for allowing it to happen. But they must also worry about preserving their relationship with the U.S., which provides billions of dollars in military and civilian aid for cooperation on the war in Afghanistan.
With reporting from the Associated Press in Washington and Islamabad.