Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari covertly met a top US military commander during his visit to Washington earlier this month, a media report on Friday said, adding that Pakistan's embassy in the US had neither confirmed nor denied the event.
Zardari's US visit "had its covert sides, as some of its facades seemed hidden even from his own advisers and assistants. Generally such covert meetings are between counterparts - civilian or military officials of the two countries - but knowledgeable sources are wondering about" the president's meeting with Gen David Petraeus, who heads the US Central Command, The News said.
Quoting sources, it said the request for the meeting had come from the US side and it most likely took place on May 6 after a dinner hosted by US Vice President Joseph Biden.
Zardari and Petreaus initially met at the dinner and were later seen walking out with no other official accompanying them.
"They went in a car to some undisclosed destination and held one-on-one meeting with no assistants and aides," The News quoted a source as saying.
After the dinner, Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani was seen getting off a taxi at his residence instead of his official chauffeur driven car.
"Some other sources claim that Ambassador Haqqani had accompanied President Zardari and General Petreaus but in order to provide them privacy he took a cab to return to his residence," the newspaper said.
The Pakistani embassy in Washington neither confirmed nor denied the Zardari-Petreaus meeting.
"If they met on the sideline of the dinner, I am not sure about it. They might have met and talked to each other. Otherwise I have no knowledge of any such one-on-one meeting," Pakistani Embassy Spokesman Nadeem Kiani told The News.
Commenting on the purported meeting, another embassy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said "it was a good omen that the president of Pakistan is so friendly that foreign dignitaries aspire to meet him".
He said the presidents usually remain reserved and unapproachable. But Zardari, according to him, befriends others in no time and such a president is no doubt best suited to promote the interests of Pakistan", The News wrote.
Petreaus, who oversees US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, is one of several top American officials who have repeatedly been saying that Pakistan needs to do more in the war against terror and needs to show tangible proof of its sincerity.