Zardari calls for US to agree on rules of engagement

Washington open to talks on fight against militants, envoy says.

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ISLAMABAD // Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani president, has called for his government and the US to agree on "clear terms of engagement" in the fight against Islamist militants and avert strife in their relationship.

Mr Zardari's remarks, which were the first such call by the leader, came yesterday at a meeting with the US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman.

"In the absence of well-defined and documented terms of engagements, wrong plugs may be pulled at the wrong times by any side that could undermined the bilateral relations," Mr Zardari's office said after the meeting.

"Terms of engagement should be clearly defined and specified so that any dispute could be settled amicably through the available institutions."

Mr Zardari did not spell out the terms of engagement but they would probably involve more consultation on drone strikes, more oversight of CIA activities and a resumption of military aid.

Relations between Pakistan and the US should be based on "mutual interest, trust and mutual respect", he said.

Mr Grossman, who will attend a three-way meeting with Pakistani and Afghan officials to co-ordinate efforts to end violence in Afghanistan, said Washington was open to the suggestion.

Pakistan is a strategic ally for the US but their ties have been strained since the killing of Osama bin Laden in a raid by US forces in Pakistan on May 2 conducted without Islamabad's knowledge.

Pakistan was angered by the raid, which it saw as a breach of its sovereignty. It cut back on US trainers in the country and placed limits on CIA activities.

On Sunday, Pakistani officials and diplomats said Islamabad had imposed travel curbs on US and other diplomats in Pakistan, in the latest sign of worsening ties with Washington.

That the Al Qaeda chief had lived for years near the Pakistani army's main academy in Abbottabad reinforced suspicions in Washington he Islamabad's reluctance to wage a war against militant Islamists.