Granting the US access to bin Laden's wives could help stabilise relations between the two countries [Reuters]

Pakistan may grant the US access to three detained wives of Osama bin Laden, who were with the al-Qaeda leader when he was killed last week, an unnamed US official familiar with the matter has said.

However, senior Pakistani government officials said on Tuesday that no decision had been made yet on the US request as the authorities continue an inquiry into the matter.

"The Pakistanis now appear willing to grant access. Hopefully they'll carry through on the signals they are sending," the official said.

The Obama administration has demanded access to operatives of the Pakistani intelliegence agency, the ISI, and bin Laden's wives to try to obtain more information on al-Qaeda, as it probes bin Laden's support network in Pakistan.

The wives and several children were among 15 or 16 people taken into custody by Pakistani forces after US navy SEAL commandos raided bin Laden's compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. 

It is not clear why US commandos did not take bin Laden's widows with them to be interviewed after the raid.

The US operation has caused much embarrassment for Pakistan which has for years denied the world's most wanted man was on its soil. 

Islamabad is under pressure to explain how the al-Qaeda leader was living in Abbottabad, a short distance from the main military academy, for up to six years.

It also faces criticism at home over the perceived violation of its sovereignty by the US commando team, which failed to inform in advance Pakistani authorities of the bin Laden raid.

Granting the US access to the al-Qaeda leaders' wives could help stabilise relations between Washington and Islamabad which have been strained since the May 2 operation.

Source: Agencies