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U.S. wants to interrogate Osama bin Laden's wives

The Obama administration is pressing Pakistan to make the three widows of Osama bin Laden available for questioning, even while relations between the two countries are strained.

May 08, 2011|By Richard Simon, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — The Obama administration is pressing Pakistan to make available Osama bin Laden's three widows for interrogation in what could become a test of U.S. relations with the country that served as a sanctuary for the terrorist leader.

President Obama's national security advisor, Tom Donilon, said Sunday that it remained unclear whether Pakistani officials knew of Bin Laden's presence in their country but that the country should provide access to the three women and any materials they took from the Bin Laden compound after the U.S. raid that killed him.

While members of Congress from both parties have called for the U.S. to get tough with Pakistan and perhaps even cut off foreign aid, Donilon urged a "calm and cool'' assessment that takes into account that Pakistan is a "very important partner'' in the war on terror.

Photos: The death of Osama bin Laden

"It's my job to take steps that are in the U.S. national interest,'' Donilon told CNN's "State of the Union." "And a relationship with Pakistan, given everything we have at stake in that region, is an important relationship.''

Pakistan is conducting an investigation of what its government knew about Bin Laden's presence in the country, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told ABC's "This Week.''

"Pakistan wants to put to rest any misgivings the world has about our role,'' he said. "Be clear, we have been victims of terrorism, and we will see this through, and we will share our intelligence with everyone that we have to share this intelligence with.''

But he also said his country was "offended'' by what it views as a violation of its sovereignty from the U.S. raid.

"America has a selling job to do in Pakistan," he said.

Pakistani authorities have learned that when Bin Laden lived in the compound one of his wives "never left the same floor of Osama bin Laden because they were paranoid about physical movement,'' the ambassador said. "They didn't go to windows. They didn't have any sort of fresh air.''

Donilon, making the rounds on the Sunday talk shows, said that U.S. intelligence officers were poring over a large trove of information "the size of a small college library'' taken by Navy SEALS from Bin Laden's home for clues to such things as other terrorist threats and the whereabouts of other terrorists.

Defending the shooting of an unarmed Bin Laden, Donilon told CNN's "State of the Union," "This is an organization known obviously for suicide bombing, IEDs, booby trapping buildings. And I think our forces, with no signal from [Bin Laden] that he was prepared to surrender, acted completely appropriately. And I don't think anybody is going to second guess their judgment.''

Former Bush administration officials, while praising Obama for launching the raid, offered their own spin as well, nonetheless, including using Bin Laden's death to defend waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation tactics.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News on Sunday that he was concerned now that Bin Laden's dead, "there will be a rush to get out of Afghanistan.''

Photos: The death of Osama bin Laden

richard.simon@latimes.com

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