US commander meets Pakistani army chief

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Islamabad, Sept 17 (UNI) US military chief Admiral Mike Mullen today reiterated the US commitment to respecting Pakistan's sovereignty as he held talks with the top civil and military leadership amid tensions over recent cross-border incursions by American forces deployed in Afghanistan.

Admiral Mullen, who dashed to Islamabad on an unannounced visit last evening met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and held talks with army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

The Admiral reiterated the U S commitment to respect Pakistan's sovereignty and develop further U S-Pakistan cooperation and coordination on critical issues that challenge the security and well-being of the people of both countries,'' a statement issued by US embassy in Islamabad said after the meetings.

''The conversations were extremely frank, positive, and constructive,'' the statement said, adding Pakistani leaders reviewed the progress of their country's efforts to combat militancy, violence, and terrorism.

Admiral Mullen appreciated the positive role that Pakistan is playing in the war on terror and pledged continued U S support to Pakistan.

In his meeting with Mullen, Kayani lodged a protest with the top US military commander over the recent violations of Pakistan's territorial boundary by the Afghanistan-based foreign troops, during the meeting held in the garrison town of Rawalpindi today, local daily The News said.

Pakistan's top civil and military leadership has been strongly criticising the US for recently carrying out a series of missile strikes and a cross-border raid in Pakistani tribal regions, which left dozens of people dead.

''Both military chiefs discussed the issues related to the war on terror and Pak-Afghan borders. Recent statements issued by the two sides regarding US attacks inside Pakistan's territory also came under discussion,'' the paper added.

General Kayani said there is no agreement or understanding between the two countries which allows US to carry out attacks inside Pakistani boundary.

He made it clear that it was the sole authority of the Pakistan army to launch attack inside its territorial boundaries. General Kayani further said such violations would affect the ongoing cooperation between the US and Pakistan.

Admiral Mullen will also hold meetings with chairman Joint Chief Staff Committee Tariq Majeed and other officials. He has visited Pakistan several times but this is his first visit after Asif Ali Zardari assumed the office of president.

UNI XC ARB KP1745

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