Victoria Nuland—Reuters Photo
“My understanding is that the encounter between Ambassador Sherry Rehman and Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides happened on the phone because the ambassador is in Pakistan. She’s not actually in the States this week,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland(above) told a briefing in Washington. —File Photo by Reuters

WASHINGTON: The United States has rejected the suggestion that Pakistan refused to send its ambassador to Washington last week for a key meeting at the State Department in protest against drone attacks.

“My understanding is that the encounter between Ambassador Sherry Rehman and Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides happened on the phone because the ambassador is in Pakistan. She’s not actually in the States this week,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told a briefing in Washington.

The Pakistani envoy was scheduled to meet Mr Nides at the State Department on Thursday but she could not come because of her engagements in Islamabad, but they did discuss a “full range of issues” on the phone, Ms Nuland said.

The ambassador’s absence, however, was noted and some media outlets claimed that the Pakistani government did not allow her to attend the meeting because it wanted to protest US drone strikes in Fata.

The media also noted that since she became the ambassador in late 2011, Ms Rehman has spent more time in Islamabad than in Washington.

The United States decreased drone strikes in Pakistan 2012 as the attacks became widely unpopular. Still, it carried about 50 strikes this year compared to 72 in 2011 and 122 in 2010.

Pakistan wants the United States to discontinue the strikes because it says that they also have killed a large number of civilians.

The US rejects the claim, saying that most of those killed were dangerous militants.

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