Pakistan denies deal over drone strikes

April 7, 2013 at 3:32 PM

ISLAMABAD, April 7 (UPI) -- Pakistani diplomats called a story in Sunday's New York Times alleging a secret deal to permit American drone strikes in the country unfounded propaganda.

The Times said the CIA struck a secret deal with Pakistani counterparts to gain access to airspace over the tribal regions of western Pakistan where many al-Qaida operatives had fled to escape bombings in neighboring Afghanistan. In return, the CIA agreed to target enemies of Pakistan's Islamabad-based national government, which for years has fought to bring the tribal militias under their control.

"We have repeatedly affirmed that Pakistan regards the use of drone strikes as counter-productive," Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told the Associated Press of Pakistan, the government's official news agency.

The Times account highlighted the assassination of Nek Muhammad, a Pakistani tribal warlord who had successfully managed to fend off government forces and forced the central government into peace negotiations.

The militia Muhammad had assembled included many al-Qaida and Taliban members who had crossed the border into Pakistan -- and who regarded Islamabad's support of the American efforts in Afghanistan as treasonous.

Muhammad was killed in a drone strike carried out by the CIA for the Pakistanis in 2004, the Times said.

Both governments have officially refused to recognize the attack.

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