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FO urges Nato restraint

June 26, 2007

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ISLAMABAD, June 25: Pakistan on Monday condemned the killing of its nationals in a Nato-led operation over the weekend near a tribal area bordering Afghanistan and called for restraint by the Nato forces.

“This incident underscores the need for better coordination, care and restraint by Nato forces, especially when they are operating close to the border,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly news briefing here. “We have protested against this incident and we condemn the killing of civilians,” she stated.

While responding to a question about the incident, she pointed to the difficult situation on the border and noted: “Sometimes there may be lack of coordination and such incidents may happen but we do not want any action by Nato forces on our side of the international border.”

In response to another query she explained that there was coordination between the Pakistani and Nato forces in the context of the war against terrorism and in terms of pursuing any “undesirable elements” who may want to cross over into Pakistan or vice-versa.

“That coordination is in the context of taking action against those elements. Any action to be taken inside Pakistani territory has to be taken by Pakistani forces,” she categorically stated.

The spokesperson disagreed with the notion that Pakistan had compromised its sovereignty.

KNIGHTHOOD: Tasnim Aslam was non-committal when asked if the resolutions adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate demanding withdrawal of knighthood title from author Salman Rushdie and apology by the British government also represented the government’s position.

She left it at: “The resolutions by the parliament and by the provincial assemblies represent the sentiments of the people of Pakistan and the sentiments of the public representatives. The government of Pakistan has already made its position known.

“We have deplored this act and we are disappointed that the British government has taken this decision.”

Asked if Pakistan would file a petition with the United Nations given that the UK government had breached the UN Security Council resolution 1624 by awarding knighthood to Rushdie, Ms Aslam said there was no mechanism under which this could be done. However, she said that Pakistan had brought it to the notice of the British government that its decision to confer

knighthood on Salman Rushdie was against the spirit of this resolution, adding: “One, it does not help the efforts to bridge the gaps that may exist between the Muslim world and the West, and two, if there are laws on inciting terrorism and violence they are applicable to all.”

OIC POSITION: When her attention was drawn to OIC’s ‘silence’ over the Rushdie issue, the spokesperson disclosed: “We have formally approached the OIC to take a position on this.”

She declined to comment on why key Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Indonesia had remained tight-lipped on this issue.