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'We were not informed of US missile strike'

Pakistan’s foreign minister says the United States did not inform Pakistan about a missile strike on militants hours.

world Updated: Sep 19, 2008 01:21 IST

The United States did not inform Pakistan about a missile strike on militants hours after the top US military officer said the United States would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, Pakistan’s foreign minister said.

The United States, frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistan with six missile attacks by pilotless drones and a helicopter-borne ground assault this month.

United States officials say Taliban and al Qaeda-linked fighters use ethnic Pashtun tribal regions on the Pakistani side of the border as a springboard for attacks into Afghanistan.

But the United States attacks have infuriated many in Pakistan, which is also battling al Qaeda and Taliban militants, and the army has vowed to stand up to aggression across the border.

The latest missile strike, on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border on Wednesday evening, killed five militants, and was the result of better US-Pakistani intelligence sharing, a senior Pakistani official with knowledge of the operation told Reuters earlier.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said Pakistani intelligence had been notified of the attack by the US, but did not say whether it was before or after the missiles struck. “There was intimation at the intelligence level,” he said.

But Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a briefing on Thursday the United States had not warned Pakistan about the attack in advance.

“We were not informed,” Qureshi said.

Hours before the strike, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, assured army commander General Ashfaq Kayani and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that the United States would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

“If having said that, there was an attack later in the night, that means there is some sort of institutional disconnect on their side,” Qureshi said.

Such attacks would not improve the situation and were unproductive, he said. The military says US attacks could spark an uprising among Pashtuns in the northwest. “It is a big concern to us ... why are the rules of engagement not being respected,” Qureshi said.