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Pakistan army, intelligence chiefs meet PM

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani waves to supporters from the steps of the Supreme Court after his contempt hearing in Islamabad on January 19. (Reuters)

By Reuters

Pakistan's army and intelligence chiefs met with the prime minister on Tuesday, state television reported, during the worst political crisis since a 1999 coup.

Tensions are running high over a mysterious memo, allegedly drafted on the direction of the former ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani which asked for US. help in reining in the military.

President Asif Ali Zardari is currently on a two-day state visit to Myanmar.

State television gave scant details on the high-powered meeting, which also included the foreign minister, saying only regional security, especially the situation in Afghanistan, was discussed.

When an American businessman revealed his role in writing and delivering the memo late last year, the army was enraged. Haqqani was forced to resign, and "memogate" has locked Zardari and the military in trench warfare ever since.

Pakistan's Supreme Court last week adjourned a contempt hearing for Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in a case that could push him from office and is adding to growing pressure on the unpopular civilian government.

Gilani was in court to explain why he should not be charged with contempt for failing to re-open old corruption cases against Zardari. The government maintains Zardari has presidential immunity.

The military, despite being officially under civilian control, sets foreign and security policies and drew rare public criticism after US special forces killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil in a raid in May 2011, an act seen by many Pakistanis as a violation of sovereignty.

The latest crisis, which has raised fears of further instability in the nuclear-armed nation fighting a Taliban insurgency, troubles Washington.

The United States wants smooth ties between civilian and military leaders so that Pakistan can help efforts to stabilise neighbouring Afghanistan, a top priority for President Barack Obama.