US rules out apology to Pakistan for NATO strike

IANS

Washington, May 24 (IANS) The White House has ruled out an apology to Islamabad for the NATO air strike in November in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

It said it was time the two countries moved ahead, Pakistan's Online news agency reported.

Pakistan's Ambassador to US Sherry Rehman and Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have reiterated Islamabad's demand for an apology for the air strike.

"I wouldn't have anything new to offer on that beyond what we have said, that we deeply regret the incident. We have thoroughly investigated it. We shared the results of that investigation with the Pakistanis," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor, told journalists when asked for his reaction to Bhutto's demand.

"We believe there's a basis for us to move forward and move beyond that particular incident, to take steps to make sure that that doesn't happen again, to be respectful of Pakistani sovereignty and to be in, frankly, better communication in that areas so that we don't see repeated incidents on the border," he said.

Rhodes said a bilateral meeting between President Barack Obama and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari was never planned on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Chicago.

"On the matter of a bilateral meeting, the president (Obama) didn't host any formal bilateral meetings except for the one with President Karzai, given the fact that there was a very busy NATO summit schedule. So, it was always our intention to really focus his time on these multilateral meetings," Rhodes said.

He said the meeting with Karzai was a priority as Afghanistan was the focus of the summit. Obama was able to meet on the margins of the summit a handful of leaders that included Zardari.

"They met twice around the margins of the ISAF session. These weren't extensive talks. They were rather brief. But one of them was a one-on-one between President Obama and President Zardari, and the other one was a trilateral discussion amongst President Obama, President Zardari and President Karzai," Rhodes said.

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