Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Nawaz faced tough questions on 26/11 in US: sources

Nawaz Sharif, who is on a visit to Washington, was, according to sources, reportedly questioned today by the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on terror-related issues, including Hafiz Saeed, the Lashkar e Taiba and their role in the Mumbai attacks of 2008 in which 166 people, including six Americans were killed. Hafiz Saeed, believed to be the mastermind of the 26/11 attacks carried out by Pakistan-based terror outfit Lashkar, is on the US' list of most wanted terrorists, but roams a free man in Mr Sharif's country. Later today, Mr Sharif will meet President Barack Obama for the first time as the two countries try to build on a slow improvement in ties that hit rock bottom two years ago, in part over the US raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Tempers have calmed since then, but there remain sore points, particularly US drone strikes and alleged Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban. Under pressure from back home, Mr Sharif on Tuesday publicly called on the United States to end its drone attacks in Pakistan, saying, "the use of drones is not only a continued violation of our territorial integrity, but also detrimental to our resolve and efforts at eliminating terrorism from our country." "This issue has become a major irritant in our bilateral relationship (with the United States) as well. I would therefore stress the need for an end to drone attacks," the Pakistan PM said. His petition came as two human rights groups have in reports accused the United States of breaking international law and perhaps committing war crimes by killing civilians in missile and drone strikes that were intended to hit militants in Pakistan and Yemen. (US broke international law by killing civilians with drones, claims human rights groups) But the US has emphatically denied that its drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan and elsewhere infringe international law. White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "To the extent these reports claim that the US has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree." (US rejects charges of breaking international law with drone strikes) "US counter-terrorism operations," he said, "are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective, and the United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorist.... terrorists. Our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute." The White House meeting is Mr Sharif's first since he swept to power in May elections this year. In a nod to the fading of tensions since the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama's administration has moved to release more than $1.6 billion in blocked security assistance to Pakistan.

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