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NATO Strike killing soldiers
Pak on offensive as US offers probe
Conveys decision to snap supplies for NATO forces
Afzal Khan in Islamabad

Enraged by the NATO strike that killed at least 24 of its troops, Pakistan on Sunday told the US that the “senseless” attack negated progress in improving ties and forced it to revisit terms of engagement, as Washington quickly moved to salvage the already fragile relations backing a probe into the incident.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar conveyed Islamabad’s stand on the latest issue to bedevil Pak-US ties during an early morning phone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said a statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

Khar informed Hillary that a deep sense of rage was felt across Pakistan at the loss of soldiers due to the NATO attack on the Pakistani post in Mohmand Agency.

“The attacks are in stark violation of Pakistani sovereignty,” said the Foreign Minister, according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office. “This negates the progress made by the two countries on improving relations and forces Pakistan to revisit the terms of engagement,” Khar said.

She also told Hillary about the two decisions made by the Defence Coordination Committee in response to the attack - to shut down the crucial NATO supply lines and that the US should vacate the Shamsi airbase, which is reportedly used by the CIA for drone strikes, within 15 days.

NATO helicopters and combat aircraft attacked two Pakistani military border posts in the restive Mohmand tribal region at 2 am yesterday. The Pakistan army put the death toll at 24 though officials were quoted by the media as saying that 28 soldiers, including two officers, were killed in the air strike.

Pakistan-US relations, already strained by the May 2 American raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, plunged to a new low after the incident.

In Washington, a joint statement issued by the US Departments of State and Defence said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta “have been closely monitoring reports of the cross-border incident in Pakistan.”

“Both (Hillary and Panetta) offer their deepest condolences for the loss of life and support fully NATO’s intention to investigate (yesterday’s incident) immediately,” the US statement said.

Hillary, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Martin Dempsey and Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan Gen John Allen also called their Pakistani counterparts following the incident.

“Secretary Clinton, Gen Dempsey and Gen Allen each called their Pakistani counterparts as well. (US) Ambassador (to Islamabad Cameron) Munter also met with Pakistani government officials in Islamabad.

“In their contacts, these US diplomatic and military leaders each stressed, in addition to their sympathies and a commitment to review the circumstances of the incident, the importance of the US-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people,” the American statement said.

All these leaders “pledged to remain in close contact with their Pakistani counterparts going forward as we work through this challenging time,” it said.

(With inputs from PTI)





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