The compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden lived and died in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 2, 2011. / AP
ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's leader denied suggestions his country's security forces may have sheltered Osama bin Laden before he was killed by American forces, even as Britain said Tuesday it would be demanding answers from Islamabad as to how the al Qaeda chief was able to live undetected in a large house in a garrison town.
But in a nod to the complex realities of dealing with a nuclear-armed, unstable country that is crucial to success in neighboring Afghanistan, British Prime Minister David Cameroon said having "a massive row" with Islamabad over the issue would not be in Britain's interest.
Nor would it be in the interest of the United States government, as evidenced Tuesday with a joint news conference and show of solidarity in Islamabad by Pakistan's top diplomat alongside senior colleagues from both the U.S. and Afghanistan.
Asif Ali Zardari's comments in a Washington Post opinion piece Monday were Pakistan's first formal response to the suspicions by U.S. lawmakers and other critics, which could further sour relations between Islamabad and its Western backers at a key point in the war in Afghanistan.
CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reported Monday that the strained friendship between Washington and Islamabad in particular, had reached its lowest point even before the raid which left bin Laden dead.
Bin Laden was killed close to a military academy in the bustling northwestern town of Abbottabad, not in the remote Afghan border region where many had assumed he had been holed up. That was quickly taken as a sign of possible collusion with the country's powerful security establishment, which Western officials have long regarded with a measure of suspicion despite several notable al Qaeda arrests in the country since 2001.
"Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact," Zardari wrote.
Echoing his boss's sentiments at the news conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir said his nation "has had robust cooperation in counter-terrorism. Pakistan has sacrificed immensely in this fight against terrorism. We will not allow our soil to be used by anyone for terrorism."
U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman, standing next to Bashir, stressed the importance of Pakistan's continuing, and increasing support in fighting extremism to bring stability to neighboring Afghanistan.
"Pakistan and Afghanistan are victims of terrorism, and if we keep that in mind we will find ways to cooperate," said Grossman.
Ties between the U.S. and Pakistan were already strained amid U.S. accusations that the Pakistanis are supporting militants in Afghanistan and Pakistani anger over American drone attacks and spy activity on its soil. They came to head in late January after a CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistan's, in what Washington said was self-defense.