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Pak in damage control mode; Zardari, Gilani meet

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | January 08, 2009 19:45 IST

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Amid reports of a rift between them, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari [Images] and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [Images] met in Islamabad [Images] on Wednesday to discuss the regional security situation after the country's admission that captured Mumbai [Images] attacker Ajmal Amir Kasab [Images] is its national.

Gilani sought the meeting with Zardari to discuss the fallout of the government's acknowledgment on Wednesday that 22-year-old Kasab is a Pakistani.

There was no official word on the meeting though official sources were quoted by television channels as saying that Gilani briefed Zardari on the prevailing situation and his decision to sack National Security Advisor Mahmud Ali Durrani for confirming Kasab's Pakistani nationality to the media without taking him into confidence.

The meeting came amid Pakistani media reports that Zardari was angry over Gilani's decision to sack Durrani without consulting him. Durrani had been handpicked by Zardari for the key post last year.

The two leaders also discussed the appointment of a new National Security Advisor and considered several names.

Among these was former NSA Tariq Aziz, who held the post during the regime of former President Pervez Musharraf [Images].

Sources told PTI that Aziz had been sounded out recently by the government to play a role in back-channel diplomacy with India. However, Aziz had indicated to the government his reluctance to take up any official post in view of his close relations and friendship with Musharraf.

Gilani came back to the federal capital after a two-day visit to Lahore [Images] and met Zardari following his return from his maiden official visit to Afghanistan.

An angry Gilani on Wednesday sacked Durrani for his "irresponsible behaviour" and for failing to take the government into confidence on national security issues. Official sources said the move came after Durrani told the media that a preliminary probe had established that Kasab is a Pakistani national.

Durrani told Geo News channel on Thursday that he had not told any foreign television news channel that all 10 terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks were Pakistanis. He said the charges levelled against him were incorrect.

Durrani also said that his conscience was clear as he had always tried to do everything possible in the interest of Pakistan.

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