Clinton calls Gilani, Pak firm on boycott decision

Islamabad/Washington: As Pak-US ties plunged to a new low after a deadly NATO strike, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani to offer her condolences on the "unintended" killing of 24 Pakistani troops but was unable to make him reconsider the decision to boycott a key meet on Afghanistan.

Clinton telephoned Gilani on Saturday evening and "conveyed her personal condolences on the death of Pakistani soldiers," said a statement issued by the Prime Minister`s House in Islamabad. She said the "attack was not intentional" and asked Pakistan to "wait for the outcome of the investigation" into the incident.

In a bid to address concerns raised by Islamabad over what Pakistani military officials described as an "unprovoked act of blatant aggression", Clinton said the US has the "highest regard for Pakistan`s sovereignty". "This incident should not be allowed to jeopardise the bilateral relationship. Pakistan and US have common interests," she said.

Clinton also raised with Gilani the issue of Pakistan`s participation in the Afghan meet in Bonn tomorrow.

Gilani told her that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security had supported the Cabinet`s decision not to participate in the Bonn Conference.

In Washington, the State Department also said that Clinton spoke with Gilani and "once again expressed condolences to the families of the soldiers and to the Pakistani people for the tragic and unintended loss of life in the NATO attack in Mohmand tribal agency last weekend."

"She reiterated America`s respect for Pakistan`s sovereignty and commitment to working together in pursuit of shared objectives on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect," it said in a statement.