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NATO's Secretary-General Apologizes to Pakistani FM for Firing Incident

Lisa Bryant | Paris 04 October 2010

NATO's secretary general is urging Pakistan to reopen a key border crossing into Afghanistan that was closed last week after a NATO strike reportedly killed several Pakistani soldiers.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels after talks with Pakistan's foreign minister, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he expressed regrets for the deaths of three Pakistani soldiers last week in an apparent NATO strike. He said the incident is being investigated.

But Rasmussen also made a strong push for closer coordination between NATO and Pakistan, and for Islamabad to open a critical supply route into Afghanistan.

"It is important that we step up our coordination in the border region," he said. "We must together prevent militants from crossing the border to attack and kill Afghans and international soldiers. And finally I expressed my hope that the border will be open for supplies as soon as possible."

Pakistan closed the Khyber Pass border crossing last week following a NATO helicopter strike, angered about the alliance's apparent intrusions into its sovereign territory. The strike was reportedly NATO's fourth in a week against Taliban forces in Pakistan.

Although the Khyber crossing is not the only supply route into Afghanistan, it is heavily used by NATO to deliver such non-lethal supplies as fuel, clothing and military vehicles to its forces.

News agencies reported Sunday that Pakistan plans to reopen the border crossing shortly.

The closure has led to a backup of traffic bound for Afghanistan, with trucks left stranded on Pakistani roadsides, vulnerable to militant attacks. News agencies are reporting the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for an early morning strike on fuel tankers bound for Afghanistan.

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