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ISI chief to discuss drones with US

ISI chief to discuss drones with US

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's head of intelligence will next week visit the United States to resume talks on drone strikes, the thorniest aspect of Pakistani-US relations, an official said Wednesday.

It is the first time in a year the head of the ISI intelligence agency flies to Washington, signalling a thaw in relations beset by crisis since US troops found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.

Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, who was appointed in March, will hold talks with CIA director David Petraeus on US drone strikes, counter-terror cooperation and intelligence sharing.

But the battle lines have long been drawn and there is little indication that in the talks next week Pakistan will win any concessions on drones, given the huge level of distrust between Islamabad and Washington.

A senior Pakistani security official said Islam would demand an end to US attacks against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and again ask for the means for Pakistan to carry out the attacks instead.

Islamabad has been increasingly vocal in its public opposition to the drones, which leaders quietly approved initially, as its alliance with Washington crashed to its lowest ebb in a decade.

"This visit comes against the backdrop of extensive consultations between civilian and military leadership and the general has been authorised to take a firm stand on drones issue during his talks," the official told.

"We need this precision strike capability to avoid collateral damage and its political fall out. The idea is that the US develops the target and tells us, and we destroy it ourselves," the official added.

Pakistan says American raids are a violation of sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment.

But US officials are understood to believe the attacks too important to give up, although the number as declined as relations have nosedived.

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