President Asif Ali Zardari. — Photo by Reuters

DUBAI: President Asif Ali Zardari sought a pledge from the United Arab Emirates to allow his family long-term refuge — as they did for his late wife — if he died or was killed, according to a secret diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

Asif Ali Zardari's wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, spent part of her eight-year self-exile in Dubai before being killed in a suicide blast in 2007 after returning to Pakistan.

The memo said the UAE's Foreign Minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, told high-ranking US officials in January about Zardari's request. The leaked cable said Sheik Abdullah stressed ''the sensitivity of the information''.

It's not known whether the appeal was granted by the UAE's president, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Emirates officials were not available Thursday to comment on the report because of a national holiday.

Separate US diplomatic memos released on WikiLeaks portray Zardari, who took power in 2008, as worried about plots against his life by political rivals.

Besides Benazir Bhutto, the UAE has in the past provided a temporary haven for embattled political figures and their families, including Chechen strongman Sulim Yamadayev and former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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