Washington: In what could mark a pivot in US-Pakistan relations, Pakistani forces have arrested a handful of al-Qaida suspects at the CIA's request, and allowed the US access to the detainees, US and Pakistani officials said.

Pakistan has also stopped demanding the CIA suspend the covert drone strikes that have damaged al-Qaida's militant ranks in Pakistan's tribal areas, officials on both sides say though the Pakistanis say they have simply put this on the back burner for now.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic matters.

Only one of the al-Qaida figures who was arrested is considered senior, but US and Pakistani officials called the combined moves a trend in the right direction.

"They are doing things to cooperate and be helpful," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in an interview on Friday.

Clapper would not comment on the details shared by other US and two Pakistani officials, but confirmed there has been some progress restoring the joint intelligence cooperation that used to be routine, prior to the covert US raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan in May.

The raid inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan and embarrassed its intelligence services, who were already angry over an incident in January, when a CIA security contractor shot dead two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him.

For a time, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency refused to carry out any joint operations with American intelligence officers, nor would they allow the Americans access to question militant detainees. (Visas as well were hard to come by for US officials of any stripe. The breakdown in relations took on a tit-for-tat quality, with Pakistan expelling most of the US military trainers in the country, and the US cutting off several hundred million dollars in military aid.

There are still bumps, including over recent high-level US criticism of Pakistan's ties to militant groups.  Pakistan considered halting some of the increased cooperation after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen accused Pakistan's spy shop of complicity with the militant Haqqani network's attack on the US embassy in neighboring Afghanistan.

Mullen levied that charge, the most serious US allegation against Pakistan since the September 11, 2001 attacks, within a few days of leaving his post last month.

President Barack Obama was more circumspect on Thursday, saying "there is no doubt that there is some connection that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have with certain individuals that we find troubling."

Obama said he does not want to yank humanitarian aid or take other punitive measures just to make a point, but some in Congress are demanding a major retrenchment in US engagement with what many see as a reluctant and inconsistent anti-terrorism partner.

More fallout from that clash arose on Thursday, when a Pakistani government commission concluded a Pakistani doctor should be prosecuted for treason, for running a vaccination programme to help the CIA locate Osama bin Laden.

(Agencies)