Clinton talks to Pakistani leader, expresses 'condolences'

Story highlights

  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with Pakistan's prime minister
  • She expresses "condolences" and "respect for Pakistan's sovereignty"
  • The Pakistani leader said his nation's relations with the U.S. are being re-evaluated
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke Saturday with Pakistan's prime minister, the latest bid to address strained relations between the two nations exactly one week after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed inadvertently in an NATO airstrike.
After the attack -- which took place in western Pakistan, near the Afghan border -- Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told CNN that Pakistan is re-evaluating its relationship with the United States.
NATO later called the subsequent mass casualties caused by the strike "tragic (and) unintended." Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have called the incident a "tragedy" and offered condolences, though Washington has not issued a formal apology.
No such apology came in Saturday's phone conversation, according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.
Clinton "once again expressed condolences to the families of the soldiers and to the Pakistani people for the tragic and unintended loss of life," the statement said.
"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."
The issue of U.S. and fellow NATO forces coming into Pakistan has been an especially sensitive topic in that country since May, when U.S. commandos killed then al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad without Pakistani leaders' consent
During an exclusive interview Monday with CNN, Gilani said the country wants to maintain its relationship with the United States as long as there is mutual respect and respect for Pakistani sovereignty.
Asked directly if Pakistan is getting that respect, the prime minister said: "At the moment (it is) not."
"If I can't protect the sovereignty of my country, how can we say that this is mutual respect and mutual interest?" he asked rhetorically.
Pakistan has taken several steps aimed at NATO since the attack.
That includes an announcement Friday, by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, that NATO and International Security Assistance Force supplies could no longer be routed through Pakistan. The country has served a vital supply route for allied forces who have been fighting for more than a decade in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan's Cabinet and its defense committee unanimously approved this measure, which mirrors a parliamentary resolution passed in May after the bin Laden raid. Parliament would have to approve a reversal of this new policy, Khar said.
"We want to be partners with the world, in this effort to bring peace and stability to the region. But not at the cost of Pakistan's own sovereignty and territorial integrity," Khar told reporters.
The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, has made the case to Washington that Pakistanis are very traumatized by what happened and are waiting for an official U.S. response, according to senior U.S. officials familiar with interagency discussions on the incident.
The White House and military leaders have said they would wait for the results of the the official investigation before any further official response is made.