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Correction to This Article
This article on WikiLeaks' revelations about U.S.-Pakistan relations misstated the date of a diplomatic cable made public by the Web site. The cable, which refers to concern about Osama bin Laden's standing as a "folk hero" in Pakistan, was from January 1999, not January 2009.

Wikileaks's unveiling of cables shows delicate diplomatic balance with Pakistan

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Sunday, November 28, 2010; 10:40 PM

The latest document dump from WikiLeaks reveals the diplomatic high wire the United States is often walking in its relationship with countries that are considered crucial allies in fighting terrorism, such as Pakistan.

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Cables that pertain to the U.S. relationship with Pakistan show the extent to which U.S. diplomatic officials think the American agenda is often undermined by the poor standing of the superpower among Pakistanis. One cable urges a reinvigorated effort at public diplomacy to shore up the United States' reputation and eat away at support for figures such as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who is thought to be hiding in the tribal frontier of Pakistan.

The January 2009 cable, posted on the Web site of Der Spiegel, laments that many Pakistanis consider bin Laden "an Islamic hero because the U.S. has named him 'public enemy number one.' " A plan to distribute "wanted" posters and matchbooks depicting bin Laden - presumably advertising the U.S. offer of a reward for his capture - might only increase his stature "as a kind of folk hero," the cable says.

The perception of the United States also apparently has hampered a secret effort to move highly enriched uranium out of a Pakistani research reactor. U.S. officials have pushed Pakistan since 2007 to accept help in moving the material, fearing it could be diverted for illicit purposes, according to a New York Times description of cable traffic discussing the issue.

In May 2009, then-Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to allow American experts to visit the site and cited concern expressed by a Pakistani official that "if the local media got word of the fuel removal, 'they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons.' "

- Greg Miller


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