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Sharif, Hagel in ‘frank’ drone talks

Islamabad, Dec. 9 (Reuters): Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and US defence secretary Chuck Hagel had a frank exchange today about US drone strikes against militants in remote areas of Pakistan.

This is the first visit by a Pentagon chief to the South Asian ally in almost four years.

The US has a complicated relationship with Pakistan and ties have been further soured by a dispute over unmanned military aircraft the US uses to target militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the Afghan border.

Islamabad says drone strikes kill too many civilians and violate its sovereignty. Protests by anti-drone activists prompted the US to suspend ground shipments of Nato cargo leaving Afghanistan via Pakistan last week. Both sides were tight-lipped on the details of the talks between Hagel, Sharif and other senior Pakistani leaders.

“The Prime Minister ... conveyed Pakistan’s deep concern over continuing US drone strikes, stressing that drone strikes were counterproductive to our efforts to combat terrorism and extremism on an enduring basis,” the foreign ministry said. Senior US defence officials, asked about the discussions on drone use, said the two leaders had a very amicable talk about counterterrorism tactics and agreed they needed to work more closely together.

 
 
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