"That's what they asked for, and we didn't tell them no," a US official was quoted as saying in a report in The Washington Post.

"The Obama administration has sharply curtailed drone strikes in Pakistan after a request from the government there for restraint as it pursues peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban," the report said citing US officials.

The Obama administration indicated that it will still carry out strikes against senior al-Qaeda targets, if they become available, and move to thwart any direct, imminent threat to US persons, it said.

"Concern about Pakistani political sensitivities provides an explanation for the absence of strikes since December, the longest pause in the CIA's drone campaign since a six-week lull in 2011, after an errant US air assault killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post, triggering a diplomatic crisis," the report said.

The current pause follows a November strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud just days before an initial attempt at peace talks was scheduled to begin.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government accused the US of trying to sabotage the talks and the Taliban cancelled the meeting.

Since then, the Obama administration has worked to improve relations with Sharif, who took office last June in the first democratic transfer of power in Pakistani history, the report said.

"The issue of whether to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban is entirely an internal matter for Pakistan," a senior administration official, was quoted as saying. The official denied that any informal agreement had been reached.

“The administration is continuing to aggressively identify and disrupt terrorist threats in the Afghan war theatre and outside areas of active hostilities in line with our established CT (counter-terrorism) objectives and legal and policy standards...Reports that we have agreed to a different approach in support of Pakistani peace talks are wrong," the senior official said.

The maiden meeting between the Pakistan government and a Taliban-nominated committee to frame a roadmap for peace talks was postponed yesterday, with representatives of the banned group claiming state negotiators had pulled out under "pressure".

President Obama had talked about limiting the drone programme in his State of the Union address last week saying, "I've imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence."

While strikes in Pakistan appear to have temporarily halted, they have continued in Yemen, including recent attacks that have reportedly killed civilians.


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