Kiyani warns US to avoid killing Pakistani civilians

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Islamabad, Sep 11 (UNI) Pakistan's Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani has warned the United States to avoid killing civilians on Pakistani soil, declaring that sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country will be defended at all cost.

Gen Kiyani's statement came yesterday night against the backdrop of a series of missile strikes by the US drones on villages in Pakistani tribal regions since July, which killed dozens of people.

Pakistani Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar also raised the issue with a visiting top German Air Force official yesterday, saying that such incidents would affect Pakistan's partnership in the war against terror.

''No external force is allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan,'' Gen Kiyani said while referring to a recent cross-border raid by US troops that killed 15 people.

He rejected the US claims that the rules of engagement gave it the right to enter Pakistan, saying,'' Engagement rules with the coalition forces are well defined and within that, the right to conduct operations against the militants inside one's own territory is solely the responsibility of the respective armed forces.'' ''There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the Coalition Forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border,'' he stressed.

Referring to his meeting with the United States' senior officers on USS Abraham Lincoln on August 27, he said they were informed about the complexity of the issue which requires understanding in depth and patience for evolving comprehensive solution.

The Army Chief said, we elaborated our viewpoint in detail and stressed that in such situations, military action alone could not solve the problem.

''Political reconciliatory effort was required to go along with the military prong to win hearts and minds of the people.'' Gen Kiyani also regretted the killing of innocent civilians in the incident of Angoor Adda on September 4 in a missile strike and said that such reckless actions only help the militants and further fuel the militancy in the area.

He said, ''the Pakistan Army has conducted successful operations against the militants in the past and at present is committed to eliminate them from tribal regions.'' The Armr Chief reiterated the need for a collaborative approach for better understanding of a highly complex issue. He said trust-deficit and misunderstandings could lead to more complications and increase the difficulties for all.

Gen Kiyani said coalition would be required to display strategic patience and help the other side the way they want it rather than adopting a unilateral approach which may be counter productive.

UNI XC GT DS1130

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