Pak seeks US apology over Salalah air strike

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Washington, May 21: Asserting that Islamabad has already taken the first step to restore normalcy in bilateral ties, Pakistan ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman has sought an apology from Washington for the Nov 26 NATO air strike in Salalah that killed 24 Pak soldiers.

In her opinion piece in The Chicago Tribune, Rehman wrote that Pakistan has already taken the first step to restore normalcy in US-Pakistan relations by working to reopen the NATO supply routes that were closed after the Salalah tragedy.

"Finally apologise for the battlefield deaths at Salalah," wrote Rehman, listing out five must-to-do things for the US for making significant progress towards resetting bilateral ties.

Pointing out that Pakistan has lost as much USD 78 billion war against extremism since 2001, Rehman also asked US to "reimburse" the Coalition Support Funds -- US repayments to Pakistan for the cost of battling terrorism -- it owes to Islamabad.

She also called for "increasing" the sharing of counter-terrorism intelligence and assistance to Pak military in combating extremism.

Rehman's other two demands included ceasing the controversial drone operations violating Pak's sovereignty and the norms of international law, and shifting to a policy of trade, not aid, by providing enhanced access to US markets for Pakistan's exports.

"These game-changing steps would serve as a deathblow to extremist expansion in the region," she wrote.

Rehman said the NATO summit in Chicago will focus on the endgame in Afghanistan on the heels of US House debate on bills that will shape the nature of the US-Pak relationship.

"The tone of this debate and the diplomacy of the Obama administration will send a clear signal to the 180 million people of Pakistan as to whether the world's oldest democracy will stand with one of the world's newest democracies to defeat terrorism and extremism for a politically stable and economically viable South Asia. Many are pessimistic," she said.

She, however, expressed hope that a series of confidence building measures "could" recast the bilateral relationship.

"If the war against extremism is to succeed, the war of words between democratic allies must end," she wrote.

Acknowledging that both the countries have had a rocky year, Rehman said the unilateral raid on Abbottabad, the Raymond Davis CIA provocation, US-led NATO air assault in Salalah and the continuing unauthorised drone attacks on Pakistani soil have frayed their 60-year special ties.

PTI

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