Clinton phones Gilani; Pak firm on Bonn meet boycott decision

Hillary Clinton
Islamabad/Washington, Dec 4: As Pak-US ties plunged to a new low after a deadly NATO strike, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to offer her condolences on the 'unintended' killing of 24 Pakistani troops but was unable to make him reconsider the decision to boycott a key meet on Afghanistan.

Clinton telephoned Gilani last evening and 'conveyed her personal condolences on the death of Pakistani soldiers', said a statement issued by the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad. She said the 'attack was not intentional' and asked Pakistan to 'wait for the outcome of the investigation' into the incident.

In a bid to address concerns raised by Islamabad over what Pakistani military officials described as an 'unprovoked act of blatant aggression', Clinton said the US has the 'highest regard for Pakistan's sovereignty'.

"This incident should not be allowed to jeopardise the bilateral relationship. Pakistan and US have common interests," she said. Clinton also raised with Gilani the issue of Pakistan's participation in the Afghan meet in Bonn on Monday. Gilani told her that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security had supported the Cabinet's decision not to participate in the Bonn Conference.

In Washington, the State Department also said that Clinton spoke with Gilani and 'once again expressed condolences to the families of the soldiers and to the Pakistani people for the tragic and unintended loss of life in (in the NATO attack in) Mohmand (tribal agency) last weekend'.

"She reiterated America's respect for Pakistan's sovereignty and commitment to working together in pursuit of shared objectives on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect," it said in a statement.

Gilani told Clinton that Pakistan had played a positive role for peace and stability in the region and made many sacrifices in fighting terrorism. Pakistan's Parliament was "seized of the matter of terms of cooperation with the US," he SAID.

"This will ensure national ownership and clarity about the relationship," Gilani said. Pakistan had responded angrily to the attack by NATO aircraft on two military border posts that killed 24 soldiers, including two officers, on November 26.

The government closed all NATO supply routes and asked the US to vacate Shamsi airbase, reportedly used by CIA-operated drones, by December 11. Pakistan was expected to play a key role in the Bonn Conference, which is likely to discuss the future of Afghanistan and an endgame in the war-torn country.

On Friday, Gilani called for a comprehensive review of Pakistan's cooperation with the US and said troops had been instructed to respond "with full force" to any further act of aggression. "Clearly, there is a limit to our patience. Cooperation cannot be a one-way street," he said.

The 'dastardly' attack was a 'grave infringement of Pakistan's territorial frontiers' by NATO and would "definitely compel us to revisit our national security paradigm", he told a key Parliamentary committee.

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet, the highest decision-making body on security issues, has already decided that the government will "undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements" with the United States, NATO and ISAF, including 'diplomatic, political, military and intelligence' cooperation.

US and Pakistani military officials have traded charges in recent days over the possible causes of the deadly air strike by the NATO aircraft.


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