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Pakistan parliament committee demands end to U.S. drone strikes

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A Pakistani parliamentary committee reviewing ties with the United States said on Tuesday it wants a halt to attacks in Pakistan by U.S. drone aircraft, a request that could further strain an uneasy alliance with Washington.

A NATO cross-border air attack on November 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers created a deep crisis in relations and prompted Pakistan to review its relationship with the United States, a source of billions of dollars in aid.

Pakistan halted overland supplies to U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan in protest and forced U.S. personnel off a base that had been used to launch drone strikes on militants in Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghanistan border.

Raza Rabbani, chairman of a parliamentary committee on national security, outlined its recommendations in the house, and said Pakistan should demand an unconditional apology for the “condemnable and unprovoked” NATO attack.

Drone strikes, which U.S. officials say are highly effective against militant groups, fuel anti-American sentiment in Pakistan because they are seen by the public as a violation of sovereignty which inflict civilian casualties.

The Pakistani government officially objects to the drone strikes, and politicians criticize them in public, but many of the attacks have been carried out with Pakistani approval, officials in both countries have said.

Pakistan’s cooperation is seen as critical to U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan before most foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

Rabbani said that if and when supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan were resumed, the shipments must be taxed. He insisted that parliament should approve any future use of Pakistani bases or air space by foreign forces.

(Reporting by Rebecca Conway and Qasim Nauman; Editing by Michael Georgy and Robert Birsel)

Published Date: Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 | 04:51 PM

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