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New U.S. leverage seen in talks with Pakistan
Pakistan’s parliament demanded the U.S. apologize for the attack and also used the opportunity to press Washington to stop drone strikes in the country.
The Obama administration has expressed regret over the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers but has refused to apologize out of concern that it could open the White House to criticism at home, where anger at Pakistan is high because of its alleged support for militants fighting U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
The U.S. has refused to stop drone strikes in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region because they are seen as a key tool in fighting al-Qaida and Taliban militants. The latest success came Monday when a drone killed al-Qaida’s second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in the North Waziristan tribal area.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made it clear during a trip to India on Wednesday that the strikes will continue as long as the U.S. needs to defend itself against terrorists who threaten America.
The attacks are unpopular in Pakistan because they are seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty and many people believe they mostly kill innocent civilians, an allegation disputed by Washington. The complaints about sovereignty are also deemed suspect because elements of the Pakistani government and military are widely believed to support the strikes.
“That is not easy, but it is necessary that we continue that effort,” he said.
The Pakistani army, which is the most powerful institution in the country, is believed to want the supply route reopened to free up more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid that has been frozen. But it has tossed the issue to the civilian government out of concern about the domestic backlash, Rizvi said.
“Pakistan should realize they are going to be pushed out of the game if they continue with these kinds of policies,” he said.
Associated Press writers Slobodan Lekic in Brussels and Lolita Baldor in New Delhi contributed to this report.
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