Pakistan’s Sharif Asks US to End Drone Attacks
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday urged US President Barack Obama to end drone strikes in Pakistan which have killed hundreds of people, most of them civilians, in recent years.
"I ... brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need for an end to such strikes," Sharif told reporters after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office.
Relations were badly strained following the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan where he was in hiding. But they appear to be on the mend as the United States prepares to pull forces out of Afghanistan in 2014.
The United States has quietly restarted security assistance to Pakistan after freezing aid during the period of soured relations, when Washington frequently voiced complaints about the ties of the Pakistani intelligence service to militant groups active in Afghanistan.
A series of major setbacks in recent years included a 2011 NATO air strike that mistakenly killed Pakistani border guards and another incident that year in which a CIA contractor killed two men on the streets of Lahore.
Obama acknowledged tensions and "misunderstandings" between the two countries. He said he and Sharif had pledged to work together on security issues in ways that "respect Pakistan's sovereignty."
"We committed to working together and making sure that rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries, this can be a source of strength for us working together," Obama said.
Sharif was elected prime minister in June in a historic election that marked Pakistan's first civilian transfer of power after the completion of a full term by a democratically elected government. He is the first Pakistani leader to visit the White House in five years.
"To see a peaceful transition of one democratically elected government to another was an enormous milestone for Pakistan," Obama said.
Much of US security aid to Pakistan is intended to bolster the ability of its military to counter militants in semi-autonomous tribal areas.
For fiscal year 2014, which began on October 1, Obama has requested $1.162 billion from Congress for Pakistan, including $857 million in civilian aid and $305 million in security assistance.
The US use of armed drones to attack suspected militants in Pakistan has long been controversial although the number of incidents has dropped in recent months.
Pakistan's PM on Tuesday urged the US to end drone attacks in his country. Speaking at the start of a visit to the US, Nawaz Sharif said the attacks violated his country's sovereignty, adding that the raids were a "major irritant" in relations with Washington.
The issue came up again this week when Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accused the United States of breaking international law by killing civilians in missile and drone strikes intended for militants in Pakistan and Yemen.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Washington was "reviewing the reports carefully."
"To the extent these reports claim that the US has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree."
"The administration has repeatedly emphasised the extraordinary care that we take to make sure counter-terrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law," he said.
In the report, Will I Be Next? US Drone Strikes in Pakistan, Amnesty called on the US to disclose information and the legal basis for strikes carried out in Pakistan.
It said US President Barack Obama's pledge earlier this year to increase transparency around drone strikes had not been fulfilled.
It called on the governments of Pakistan, Australia, Germany and the UK to investigate drone strikes or other abuses that may constitute human rights violations.
Last week, a UN investigation found that US drone strikes had killed at least 400 civilians in Pakistan, far more than the US has ever acknowledged.
UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson accused the US of challenging international legal norms by advocating the use of lethal force outside war zones.
A controversial aspect of the US policy is that drone attacks are carried out not by the military but by the Central Intelligence Agency.