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Pakistan protests 'legitimate' US strike

Latest update : 2008-06-11

Following opposition to a US-led air strike on Wednesday that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers, Pakistan's ambassador to the US said that the country did not consider it an intentional act.


WASHINGTON, June 11 (Reuters) - Pakistan does not view a
U.S. air strike that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers at a border
post near Afghanistan as an intentional hostile act, Pakistan's
ambassador to the United States said on Wednesday.
 

Ambassador Husain Haqqani rejected U.S. assertions that the
U.S. forces had coordinated with Pakistan as they mounted the
strike during a counter-offensive against Islamist militants.
 

But he also told Reuters the incident was not expected to
cause Pakistan to reconsider its relationship with Washington
despite strong protests in Islamabad, where the U.S. ambassador
was summoned for a meeting with the foreign ministry.
 

"We will look upon this as an incident that is not an
intentional action to cause harm to Pakistan," said Haqqani,
who took up his duties in Washington this month.
 

"The issue has been discussed between representatives of
the government of Pakistan and representatives of the U.S.
government, and we would like the circumstances of the incident
investigated," he added.
 

"We do look upon it as not an act that should cause us to
reconsider our partnership, but rather to find ways of
improving that partnership," Haqqani said in an interview with
Reuters reporters.
 

He stopped short of calling the air strike accidental,
saying its character could not be fully determined until after
an investigation.
 

The soldiers were killed in what a Pakistani security
official said was a counter-offensive after militants had
launched an attack into Afghanistan. The U.S. military said the
strike had been aimed at anti-Afghan militants and Pakistan had
been told in advance.
 

COORDINATION
 

Haqqani took issue with repeated U.S. assertions that the
air strike had been coordinated with Pakistan: "To my
knowledge, that is not correct, for the simple reason that if
the Pakistani authorities had coordinated the strike, the
people killed would not have been Pakistani soldiers."
 

He said Pakistan would use the incident to try to improve
border security coordination with the Afghan government and the
U.N.-mandated International Security Assistance Force, which is
battling Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
 

Security along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan has long
been a prickly issue for the Bush administration, which has
been adding troops in Afghanistan to quell rising Taliban
violence that U.S. officials say is often planned and even
executed from inside Pakistan.
 

Pakistan's new government, elected in the aftermath of
former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination in
December, has stirred unease among U.S. officials by seeking
peace agreements with militants on its side of the border.
 

U.S. officials fear that peace deals would only allow
militants a freer hand to pursue operations across the border
in Afghanistan. NATO reported an increase in April in Taliban
violence in eastern Afghanistan, a region near the site of
Wednesday's air strike.
 

"The war against terror requires the sympathetic support of
the people of Pakistan, which the new government is trying to
build and incidents like this distract from our ability to
mobilize Pakistani public opinion against the militants and the
terrorists," Haqqani said.
 

U.S.-controlled Predator drones are believed to have struck
at least four sites used by al Qaeda operatives in northwest
Pakistan this year, killing dozens of suspected militants and
sparking public concern about infringement of Pakistani
sovereignty.

Date created : 2008-06-11

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