Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Saturday it would never allow any expansion in the campaign of drone strikes by the United States on its territory.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the US was seeking to expand the areas inside Pakistan where Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) unmanned aircraft — used for surveillance and to launch missile strikes — could operate.

“As for the reported suggestion by the US to carry out drone attacks beyond our tribal areas, Pakistan's position is very clear — we would never allow this to happen,” foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP.

“The Americans should rather revisit their drone attack policy and stop carrying out strikes in our tribal areas.”

Washington has massively ramped up its drone campaign against militants in areas near the Afghan border over the past two months, and argues they are highly effective in the war against al Qaeda and its allies.

But the policy is deeply unpopular among the Pakistani public, who see military action on Pakistani soil as a breach of national sovereignty and say some attacks have killed innocent civilians.

Citing unnamed US and Pakistani officials, The Washington Post said Friday that US officials were eyeing areas surrounding Quetta, where the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is believed to be hiding.

The request also sought to expand the boundaries for drone strikes in the tribal areas, the report said.

“We already have issues with American drone strikes, which are known to Washington,” Basit said.

“These strikes violate our sovereignty, cause collateral damage and above all are producing (a) drone-hardened generation.”

Pakistan has repeatedly said there is no justification for the drone strikes, describing them as “counter-productive” and a violation of the country's sovereignty.

Washington, which has massively ramped up its drone campaign in Pakistan's northwest tribal region, says the strikes are highly effective in the war against al Qaeda and its allies.

They have killed a number of high-value targets, including the former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

More than 240 people have been killed in 45 strikes since September 3, angering the government, which is facing criticism for acquiescing to the attacks and reprisals from militant groups based in the area.

The US considers Pakistan's tribal belt an al Qaeda headquarters, and has reportedly criticised Pakistan's failure so far to launch a major ground offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan.

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