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2013-10-25
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Ex-PM denies drone collusion

Global Times (2013-10-25 P07)
By AFP
Pakistani officials and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday denied a report that they had approved US drone strikes on the country's soil.

The Washington Post on Wednesday quoted leaked secret documents as saying Pakistan had been regularly briefed on strikes up till late 2011 and in some cases had helped choose targets.

The purported evidence of Islamabad's involvement came as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met US President Barack Obama at the White House and urged him to end the attacks, which are widely unpopular with the Pakistani public.

A Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said the anti-drone stance of the Sharif government, elected in May, was clear and any past agreements no longer applied.

Pakistani security officials claimed the story was a US attempt to undermine Sharif's position and reduce criticism of the drone campaign, days after an Amnesty International report warned some of the strikes could constitute war crimes.

The Washington Post's revelations concerned strikes in a four-year period from late 2007, when military ruler Pervez Musharraf was in power, to late 2011 when a civilian government had taken over.

Gilani, prime minister from 2008 until June last year, vehemently denied giving any approval for drone strikes.

"We have never allowed Americans to carry out drone attacks in the tribal areas," Gilani told AFP. "From the very beginning we are against drone strikes and we have conveyed it to Americans at all forums."

Islamabad routinely condemns the strikes targeting suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda militants in its northwest tribal areas. But evidence of collusion or tacit approval has leaked out in recent years.

A diplomatic cable from then-US ambassador Anne Patterson, dated August 2008 and released by Wikileaks, indicated Gilani had agreed to the strikes in private.

However, a senior Pakistani security official flatly denied any official deal to help with the drone campaign.

"There has never been official arrangement at the strategic or government level," he told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Americans are trying to dilute the growing pressure by using back channels and making Pakistan a party to the whole issue."

AFP
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