Pakistan parliament backs recommendations on US ties

ISLAMABAD Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:33am IST

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks to Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul March 27, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks to Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul March 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's parliament on Thursday unanimously approved recommendations from its national security committee on ties with the United States, including a demand to end drone strikes.

Action on the recommendations has yet to be decided by the government. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said in a live televised speech to parliament that the government will attempt to implement them "in letter and spirit".

He did not say whether Pakistan would reopen overland supply routes to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. They were suspended after a November 26 cross-border NATO air attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and plunged already troubled ties to their lowest point in years.

When asked whether Pakistan would re-open the supply routes to Afghanistan, Information Minister Firdos Ashiq Awan did not specify a course of action.

"Parliament has given us some guidelines and principles. Keeping them in mind, and the will of the people, we will soon take an appropriate position on the matter," she told reporters outside parliament after Gilani's speech.

Gilani reiterated Pakistan's call for the United States, the source of billions of dollars in military and economic aid, to respect the South Asian nation's sovereignty.

A halt in drone strikes and an unconditional apology for the NATO attack were the national security committee's main recommendations.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the United States would look forward to discussing the parliamentary recommendations with Pakistan's government.

"We respect the seriousness with which parliament's review of U.S.-Pakistan relations has been conducted," Nuland said. "We seek a relationship with Pakistan that is enduring, strategic, and more clearly defined."

While Pakistani leaders often criticise the drone programme, analysts say successful strikes on high-profile al Qaeda and Taliban militants would be difficult without Pakistani cooperation.

Pakistan says publicly the drone strikes fuel anti-American sentiment, are a violation of sovereignty, and inflict civilian casualties.

The United States has been seeking Pakistan's cooperation to stabilise Afghanistan before most foreign combat troops leave at the end of 2014, mainly because of its links with the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups.

That cooperation has been hard to secure after a series of events, even before the NATO attack, including the U.S. special forces raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil in May last year and humiliated the powerful military.

(Reporting By Qasim Nauman; additional reporting by Missy Ryan in Washington; writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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