Islamabad, 28 Rabiul Awwal 1434/9 February 2013 (MINA) – US and Pakistan ‘discuss end of aerial CIA attacks on Pakistani territory,’ senior foreign ministry official says, according to report monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA), Saturday.
      Pakistan is holding talks with the United States to end drone strikes against suspected Taliban fighters, which sometimes also kill civilians, a senior Pakistani official has said.
     “Drone attacks are against sovereignty of Pakistan, against international law and against the UN charter,” Jalil Abbas Jilani, the administrative head of Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry told members of Parliament in Islamabad, the capital.
      “Innocent people have been killed in these attacks,” Jilani said on Friday, adding; “We are having talks with the US to stop the drone attacks and we hope for a positive outcome of the dialogue and hope that drone attacks will stop.”
     The attacks, which are operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), have strained Pakistan’s relations with the US. Pakistan says the attacks violate its sovereignty.

‘Last resort’

       Jilani estimated that US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan have killed 1,900 to 3,000 people. Some 80 percent of the victims were suspected al-Qaeda-linked fighters, according to Jilani.
      “US says that al-Qaeda has been eliminated to a large extent due to these attacks; it has been reduced and will be further reduced in coming days,” he said.
       His briefing to Parliament came just a day after John Brennan, the White House candidate to head the CIA, defended the use of drone strikes against armed groups around the world.
        Brennan told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the CIA and other national security agencies believe that drones were the last resort to defend US security.
        Pakistan has not formally reacted to Brennan’s remarks.
        Estimates vary of the number of alleged fighters and civilians killed in drone strikes, which have risen since Obama took office in 2009.
        According to Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2,634 to 3,468 people have been killed in 363 drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 to 2013, including 473 to 893 civilians.

No compromise

      Meanwhile Pakistani envoy to the United States Sherry Rehman was quoted by as saying that Islamabad will seek an end to US drone strikes during the upcoming Intelligence Summit in Washington next week.
      In a frank debate on Friday with White House war adviser Douglas Lute, Pakistani ambassador Sherry Rehman said the drone attacks succeeded in damaging al-Qaeda but are now only serving to recruit new militants.
     The two were speaking to an audience at the Aspen Security Forum.
     “I am not saying drones have not assisted in the war against terror, but they have diminishing rate of returns,” Rehman said, speaking by video teleconference from Washington.
      “We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that,” she added.
      ISI chief, Lieutenant General Zaheer-ul-Islam, is expected to reiterate the demand in his first meeting with CIA Director David Petraeus, at CIA headquarters in Virginia, next week.
      Lute would not comment on the drone program, but US officials have said privately that the program will continue because Pakistan has proved incapable or unwilling to target militants the US considers dangerous.
      A long-sought US apology to Pakistan over a deadly border incident cleared the way to restart counterterrorism talks, in which Pakistani officials say the US also will be asked to feed intelligence gathered by the pilotless aircraft to Pakistani jets and ground forces so they can target militants.
      While neither side expects much progress, officials from both countries see the return to dialogue as a chance to repair a relationship dented by a series of incidents that damaged trust on both sides.
      US officials remain angry over what they say is Pakistan’s support of Taliban groups, including the militant Haqqani network, who shelter in Pakistan’s tribal areas and attack troops in neighbouring Afghanistan.
      A key insult for Pakistan remains last year’s US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil, conducted without Pakistan’s permission.
       Rehman defended Pakistan’s arrest of Dr Shakil Afridi, who has been sentenced to more than three decades in prison for aiding the CIA in tracking down bin Laden by conducting a vaccine program in the military town where the terrorist mastermind turned out to be hiding.
       US MPs have threatened to halt millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan if Afridi is not released, in recognition of his contribution to helping track down bin Laden. Afridi is appealing his sentence. (T/P05/E1)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)

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