(AFP) – Jun 25, 2009
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistan's prime minister Thursday told Washington's visiting top security adviser that the United States must halt drone attacks on its soil, after they killed dozens of people in the northwest.
James Jones held talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as part of a short regional tour that has already taken in neighbouring Afghanistan to assess the United States' new strategy in the region.
The Barack Obama administration has put Pakistan at the heart of a strategy to tackle Al-Qaeda and other extremists who Washington says are huddled along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border plotting attacks on Western targets.
Gilani "called for stopping the drone attacks in order to ensure success of Pakistan?s strategy for isolating the militants from the tribes," a statement issued from his office said.
Two US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal South Waziristan district on Tuesday reportedly killed about 50 people as suspected Taliban militants gathered for a funeral, military and administration officials have said.
Jones, who also met President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, in a statement made no mention of any rift over the use of drones to target militants in the lawless tribal belt.
"Together, the US and Pakistan are enhancing border cooperation, trade, energy and economic development to help Pakistanis face the challenges posed by extremists," the statement said.
"Terrorism is not simply the enemy of America -- it is a direct and urgent threat to the Pakistani people."
Foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit, who said Thursday that the drone attacks were "unacceptable and must be stopped", revealed the talks centred around Islamist extremism and how to bring stability to Afghanistan.
Militants slip easily across the porous, mountainous border between the two countries, and Basit said they discussed reinforcing troop numbers on the Afghan side, where there is a significant US military presence.
"They do understand our concerns... now it is a matter how these additional troops would be deployed, this is what is currently being discussed by our two sides," Basit told reporters.
US officials have voiced strong support for a Pakistan military offensive to clear Taliban militants from swathes of the northwest, with the military currently readying for an assault on the tribal belt.
The statement from Gilani's office said Jones "lauded (the) Pakistan Army?s successful operation against terrorists", but said that Pakistan needed more help from donors to fund its war against the militants.
After leaving Pakistan on Thursday, Jones will head to India.
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