Pakistan Rejects U.S. 'Right' to Incursions

From Reuters

Pakistani officials on Saturday strongly rejected U.S. claims that American troops have the right to enter Pakistani territory in pursuit of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters crossing from Afghanistan.

U.S. military officials in Afghanistan said Friday that they had the right to cross into Pakistan in pursuit of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives, adding that Pakistan was aware of the "long-standing policy."

But Pakistani Foreign Minister Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said Saturday: "Operations within Pakistani territory would be conducted solely and exclusively by our own forces and in response to decisions taken by Pakistan. Our forces are fully capable of securing and protecting Pakistan's borders."

The dueling assertions came nearly a week after a U.S. warplane dropped a large bomb on disputed land near the Afghan-Pakistani frontier after a man dressed as a Pakistani border scout opened fire on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, wounding one. The bomb killed two Pakistanis.

According to Kasuri, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf spoke about the incident by telephone Friday and agreed that it may have been due to a "misunderstanding at the operational level on the ground."

"They reiterated the need to further strengthen coordination to ensure that such incidents do not happen in future," he said.

Kasuri also underlined Pakistan's support for the "global coalition against terrorism." But hard-line Islamic parties in Pakistan oppose Musharraf's support for the U.S. campaign. They mobilized thousands of people to march through major cities Saturday to protest U.S. military operations in the region.

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