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Pakistan Denounces Latest US Drone Strike

Pakistan on Monday denounced the latest US drone strike inside its territory as a blatant violation of its sovereignty and said that such attacks breached international laws.

The Pakistani reaction came after a US drone strike on an abandoned school in Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan province, on Sunday killed at least three militants of foreign origin.

It was the first US drone strike inside Pakistan since the country's parliament passed a resolution last month calling for an immediate halt to such attacks using unmanned aircraft and approving new terms for engagement with the US.

"Such attacks are in total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations," Pakistan's foreign office said in a statement issued Monday, adding that such attacks violate the country's sovereignty.

Foreign office spokesman Moazzam Khan noted that Pakistan has "consistently maintained that drone attacks are violative of its territorial integrity and sovereignty," and stressed that the matter would be taken up "through diplomatic channels both in Islamabad and Washington."

Also, US Political Counselor Jonathan Pratt was summoned to the Pakistani Foreign Office by Director General (Americas) on Monday to formally lodge a protest over the drone strikes.

Nevertheless, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani was much more measured in his response to the latest drone strike. Although he reaffirmed Islamabad's continued objection to such attacks, Gilani noted that parliament's guidelines for re-engaging with the US called for expelling all foreign fighters from Pakistani soil.

Although the U.S. military does not confirm or deny drone attacks inside Pakistan, the American armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency operating in Afghanistan are believed to be the only entities capable of deploying such robot planes in the region.

US President Barack Obama recently admitted that the United States carries out regular drone strikes on militant targets in Pakistan's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, stressing that such strikes allowed the US military to hit militant targets inside Pakistan without engaging in more "intrusive military action."

After Obama assumed office in January 2009, there was a spurt in the number of attacks by suspected US drones. Pakistani officials claim that at least 200 people, including civilians, were killed in some 100 such drone strikes in 2010.

The number of such attacks using unmanned aircraft dropped to about 64 in 2011, following their suspension for a few weeks after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a NATO air strike near the Afghan border in November.

U.S. drone strikes inside Pakistan is a very sensitive issue in the South Asian country. The Pakistani government has often protested strongly against such cross-border missile attacks in the past, stressing that such strikes violate its sovereignty.

US officials, however, insist that Pakistan's reluctance to launch anti-militant operations in North Waziristan has turned the region into a militant hotbed, which the Taliban and other al-Qaeda linked militants often use as a base to plan attacks on foreign coalition troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

by RTT Staff Writer

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