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Pakistan to boycott Bonn meeting on Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD / WASHINGTON -Pakistan will boycott an international conference on Afghanistan’s future in Bonn next week to protest against a NATO cross-border attack that killed two dozen of its soldiers and plunged the region deeper into crisis.

“Pakistan has decided not to attend the Bonn conference as a protest,” a government official said on Tuesday after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Lahore.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday she was “very sorry” about Pakistan’s announced boycott of the conference and would try to convince it to attend.

The conference next week in Bonn, Germany, seeks a strategy to stabilize Afghanistan a decade after al-Qaida used the country as a base to launch the Sept 11, 2001, attacks and US-backed NATO forces overthrew the Taliban.

Pakistan has reacted to Saturday’s airstrikes with fury, cutting off crucial supply routes to NATO forces in Afghanistan, and ordering US personnel to vacate an air base in the country’s southwest for years for operation in Afghanistan and drone strikes.

Pakistan on Tuesday rejected the UAE’s request to withdraw call for air base vacation. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zeyed Al-Nahyan met President Asif Ali Zardari and requested him to take back its deadline set for the US to leave the air base.

Zardari told the UAE foreign Minister that the decision was taken by Defense Committee of the Cabinet and cannot be withdrawn.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilan on Monday also ruled out “business as usual” with the United States.

“Business as usual will not be there,” Gilani told CNN when asked if ties with the United States would continue. “We have to have something bigger so as to satisfy my nation.”

On Tuesday, officials said that a US-led investigation into the NATO airstrike will report its initial findings by Dec 23.

The chief of US Central Command, which oversees US forces in Afghanistan and the Middle East, appointed Brigadier General Stephen Clark, a one-star air force general, to lead the investigation, the US military announced.

Reuters-AP-AFP

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