| Updated at: 1349 PST, Friday, December 03, 2010|
CAIRO: The United States has been pushing Saudi Arabia to help stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan, leaked US diplomatic memos show.
Saudi Arabia has enormous influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, using its petro-wealth and religious ties in both countries. The kingdom was one of only two countries to recognize the former Taliban government in Afghanistan.
The memos released on the WikiLeaks website this week show differences in strategy between Washington and Saudi Arabia. American diplomats have been pressing the kingdom to throw its weight behind President Asif Ali Zardari with financial aid and intelligence help against the militant groups.
Instead, Saudi Arabia has pushed for a greater role for Sharif, who spent years in exile in Saudi Arabia and who has close ties with him. In 2008, before Zardari's election, Saud touted Sharif as "a force for stability" able to talk to "religious extremists who are not usually open to dialogue," according to another US Embassy memo.
In March last year, Obama's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, pressed Saudi officials to work with Zardari, warning that instability could lead to Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands.
Holbrooke said US-Saudi cooperation on Pakistan "needed to rise to a higher level." He urged the kingdom to provide economic assistance to Pakistan and help get Zardari and Sharif to work together, according to an embassy report on his talks with Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a senior counter-terror chief.
"The Saudis generally agree that there is a need to deny terrorists safe havens in Pakistan, but question whether the methods we have outlined will be effective," Ambassador James B. Smith wrote. "The tumultuous democratic process in Pakistan makes the Saudis nervous, and they appear to be looking for 'another Musharraf': a strong, forceful leader they know they can trust," he added, referring to former Pakistani strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf.