ISLAMABAD – Nato on Tuesday invited Pakistan to key talks on the future of Afghanistan in Chicago next week as Islamabad signalled it was about to end a nearly six-month blockade on supply routes.

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen telephoned President Asif Ali Zardari Tuesday afternoon and invited him to the May 20-21 summit, said presidential spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar.

Babar said the invitation by Rasmussen for the summit was unconditional and not linked to the opening of ground lines for Nato or to any other issue.  The president informed the Nato Secretary General that he would consider the invitation in the light of the guidelines of the parliament and the advice of the government, he said.  The president said that a decision on the invitation would be communicated to Nato later.

Agencies add: “Allies decided to invite President (Asif Ali) Zardari of Pakistan to Chicago to the meeting on Afghanistan, which will include Isaf contributor nations, as well as Japan, Russia, other countries from the region and international organisations,” Nato spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement.

Oana said Pakistan had ‘an important role’ to play in the future of Afghanistan, which will be the focus of the second day of the summit. “This meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan and to its future,” Lungescu said.

Reuters adds: President Zardari will attend a summit of Nato leaders in Chicago this weekend, the Pakistani embassy in Washington said on Tuesday.      

Nadeem Hotiana, a spokesman for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, said Zardari was now planning to attend the summit, which takes place May 20-21 in President Barack Obama’s hometown of Chicago.