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Pakistan invited to Nato summit

Nato has invited Pakistan's president to the upcoming Chicago summit on Afghanistan, the strongest sign yet that Islamabad is ready to reopen its western border to US and Nato military supplies heading to the war in the neighbouring country.

President Asif Ali Zardari was expected to accept the invitation, a Pakistani official in Washington said.

Pakistan blocked the routes in November after American airstrikes killed 24 of its troops on the Afghan border.

The attack sent ties between Washington and Islamabad to new lows, threatening regional cooperation needed for negotiating an end to the Afghan war.

The developments signal something of a rapprochement between the two countries, but tensions are likely to bedevil what has long been a brittle relationship, scarred by mistrust on both sides. Many in Washington believe Pakistan is supporting the Taliban, making the Afghanistan war unwinnable.

The US expressed regret for the airstrikes and has been quietly pressing Pakistan to reopen the routes over the last two weeks. Washington and Nato stepped up those efforts in recent days, and officials had said Islamabad would not be welcome at the two-day summit beginning Sunday in Chicago unless it did so.

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen phoned Mr Zardari to invite him to the meeting, according to a statement from the Pakistan government and Nato.

"This meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan and to its future," Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in Brussels, where the alliance is based. "Pakistan has an important role to play in that future."

Nadeem Hotiana, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, said Mr Zardari "is likely to attend".

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