WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD - Pakistan may let US investigators question the wives of Osama bin Laden, a US official said, a decision that could begin to stabilize relations between the prickly allies that have been severely strained by the killing of the al-Qaida leader.

However, a senior Pakistani government official in Islamabad said on Tuesday no decision had been taken on the US request.

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Bin Laden was shot dead on May 2 in a top-secret raid in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad to the embarrassment of Pakistan which has for years denied the world's most wanted man was on its soil.

The government is under pressure to explain how the al-Qaida leader was found in the garrison town, a short distance from the main military academy, and faces criticism at home over the perceived violation of sovereignty by the US commando team.

Pakistani cooperation is crucial to combating Islamist militants and to bringing stability to Afghanistan and the US administration has been keen to contain the fallout.

US investigators, who have been sifting through a huge stash of material seized in bin Laden's high-walled compound, want to question his three wives as they seek to trace his movements and roll up his global militant network.

"The Pakistanis now appear willing to grant access. Hopefully they'll carry through on the signals they're sending," a US official familiar with the matter said in Washington.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

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