NATO chief regrets killing of Pakistani soldiers

Berlin: NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen today expressed his regret to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for the "tragic unintended" killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in an air strike along its border with Afghanistan.

"I have written to the Prime Minister of Pakistan to make it clear that the deaths of Pakistani personnel are as unacceptable and deplorable as the deaths of Afghan and international personnel," he said in a statement.

"I offer my deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of the Pakistani officers and soldiers who lost their lives or were injured, and to the government and people of Pakistan, following the regrettable incident along the Afghan-Pakistani border," Rasmussen added.

NATO helicopters and combat aircraft attacked two Pakistani military border posts in the restive Mohmand tribal region at 2 am on Saturday, killing 24 soldiers.

Pakistan strongly reacted to the incident and told the US that the "senseless" attack negated progress in improving ties and forced it to revisit terms of engagement.

However, the NATO chief said the coalition remains strongly committed to work with Pakistan to improve cooperation to avoid such tragedies in the future.

"This was a tragic unintended incident. I fully support the ISAF investigation which is currently underway. We will determine what happened, and draw the right lessons," he said.

Rasmussen`s remarks came a day after Pakistan`s Defence Committee of the Cabinet decided to "close with immediate effect the NATO/ISAF logistics supply lines".