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British official concedes U.S drone attacks affects Pakistan

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, Jan20, IRNA--The visiting British Defence Secretary John Hutton Monday conceded that the continuing U.S drone attacks in Pakistan are having serious negative fallout on people of Pakistan's perception on their Government's counter terrorism campaign.

Officials say that American drones carried out around 50 attacks last year, killing hundreds of people including women and children.
The drones also launched at least two attacks in the first week of January in South Waziristan.

British Defence Secretary assured Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in a meeting that he would take up the drone attacks issue through his Government with the U.S and other allies, a statement from the Prime Minister office said.

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani told the British Defence Secretary that the U.S and NATO countries should strengthen the mechanism of sharing intelligence and assist in building the capacity of Pakistan's defence and Law Enforcement Agencies to help in effectively confronting the extremists and terrorists instead of resorting to drone attacks.

"While emphasizing the importance of people's ownership of the campaign against extremism and terrorism, he termed the incursions into Pakistan territory by the US/ISAF, not only unacceptable but also counterproductive in his Government's endeavours to isolate the extremists from peace loving populace of the tribal areas".

The Prime Minister underscored that though the U.S and other important allies have been promising Pakistan the required economic and capacity building assistance, not much has been delivered so far, in real terms.

The Prime Minister stressed the need for re-invigorating the defence cooperation between Pakistan and UK and called on the UK Government to facilitate issuance of Open General Export Licences to British defence manufacturing firms for the export of Military equipment to Pakistan. He also urged early finalization of the sale of two surplus Royal Navy Ships and increase in the UK training facilities for Pakistan. He also offered the sale of light arms and ammunition to the British Forces deployed in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister told the British Secretary of State of Defence on his Government's efforts to defuse the tensions in South Asia, and cooperate with India in the investigation of Mumbai terrorists attack. He said that Ministry of Interior had appointed a high powered team of experts to look into the information provided by India and its findings will be shared with India and other countries, as soon as they are available.

The British Secretary of State for Defence, while acknowledging that Pakistan itself was the major victim of terrorism, stated that he felt very encouraged by Prime Minister's re-assurances that Pakistan would share the results of its enquiry into Mumbai terror attacks with India since that would greatly help defuse the present situation in the region. He underlined that Pakistan and Britain were facing a common challenge on Pakistan ? Afghanistan Border and 2009 would be a decisive year for restoration of stability and normalcy in Afghanistan. He urged for Pakistan's continuous engagement with counter terrorism campaign and assured the Prime Minister of Britain's complete support in meeting its genuine defence and capacity building requirements.

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