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White House Rejects Apology Over Pakistan Strike, Citing Probe


White House spokesman Jay Carney

White House spokesman Jay Carney

The White House has rejected the idea of offering a U.S. apology to Pakistan over the NATO air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, saying an inquiry into the deadly incidents is still in progress.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on December 1 said the Obama administration has offered condolences for what he called "the tragic loss of life" in Pakistan, but he maintained that it would be premature for the White House to consider apologizing to Pakistan until a U.S.-led military investigation is complete.

"We are in the middle of an investigation -- actually, at the early stages of an investigation -- into what exactly happened," he said. "So, I think that the expression of condolences for the tragic loss of life conveys a sincere sentiment about our feelings, the president's feelings and the administration's feelings, and it goes to the importance of the relationship that we have with Pakistan."

Pakistan has alleged that the November 26 air attack on its troops in Mohmand Agency, near the Afghan border, was an unprovoked, deliberate act of agression. This has been denied by U.S. and NATO military officers, who have suggested the strikes may have resulted from a case of mistaken identity.

The "Wall Street Journal" -- quoting unnamed U.S. officials -- reported on December 2 that Pakistani officials gave the go-ahead to the NATO air strike, unaware that their own forces were in the area. The Pakistani officials were contacted to determine whether there were Pakistani forces in the area after U.S. commandos hunting Taliban militants requested an air strike after coming under fire from the Pakistani side of the border.

Pakistan's relations with the United States and NATO have soured considerably in recent weeks. In direct response to the air strike, Islamabad halted NATO supplies to neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan has also withdrawn from next week's international conference on the future of Afghanistan, to be held in the German city of Bonn.

There has also been much controversy within Pakistan regarding a leaked memo in which Pakistani civilian officials allegedly sought U.S. help in preventing a possible military coup in exchange for concessions. Former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, who has been accused of drafting the memo, was reportedly banned on December 1 from leaving the country.

compiled from agency reports

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