Minister defends decision on Bonn meet

LAHORE, Pakistan, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The Pakistani Cabinet decision not to attend the Bonn conference on Afghanistan reflected the national sentiment, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.

Her comments to reporters in Lahore came after the Cabinet decided not to send Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to next week's meeting in Bonn among representatives from about 90 countries to discuss the future of Afghanistan.


The decision was in protest of the NATO airstrike Saturday in Pakistan's Mohmand Agency in which two dozen Pakistani soldiers died -- further complicating the strained U.S.-Pakistan relations and stoking the anti-U.S sentiments among Pakistanis.

"It is futile to be part of a conference seeking Afghanistan's sovereignty when your own sovereignty is breached," Firdous said, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

Pakistan, in its reaction to the airstrike, has closed two of its supply routes to coalition forces in landlocked Afghanistan, and ordered the United States to vacate an air base in Balochistan Province.

Firdous said Pakistan had always supported the Afghan process of reconciliation and durable peace in the region, but now its own territorial integrity had been violated through unilateral action, the report said.


She said the government of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is considering a re-engagement strategy in line with the decision of the Defense Cabinet Committee by taking all political parties on board.

Firdous was quoted in a television interview as saying Pakistan wants harmonious relations with the international community based on equality and that no compromise would be made on national interest.

In its decision against attending the Bonn meeting, the Cabinet reaffirmed Pakistan's support for stability and peace in Afghanistan and the importance of an Afghan led, Afghan owned process of reconciliation, the report said.

NATO has begun an investigation into the airstrike, which Pakistan says was unprovoked.

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