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Hearing into CIA drones would dent US ties: UK

Ties between Britain, the US and Pakistan could be jeopardized if a judge grants a request for a court inquiry into the possible role of UK spy agencies in aiding covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan`s northwest tribal region.



London: Ties between Britain, the US and Pakistan could be jeopardized if a judge grants a request for a court inquiry into the possible role of UK spy agencies in aiding covert CIA drone strikes in Pakistan`s northwest tribal region, a government lawyer told Britain`s High Court today.

James Eadie, lawyer for Britain`s Foreign Office, insisted that intelligence sharing between Britain and the US already under strain by previous disclosures made in London courtrooms and links between Washington and Pakistan would all potentially be cast into doubt.

Noor Khan, a 27-year-old whose father was killed by a drone strike in northwest Pakistan in March 2011, has asked Britain`s High Court to examine whether UK intelligence officials assisted the action and may be liable for prosecution.
His legal advisers want a judge to determine whether Britain`s secret eavesdropping agency, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, has passed location data to guide CIA drones, and whether the UK has agreed to a secret policy of assistance to the program of targeting militants.

"Adjudicating on the claim plainly would have significant impact on the conduct of the United Kingdom`s relations with both the United States and Pakistan," Eadie told a three-day hearing at the High Court.

"It would also be likely to have such an impact on relations between the United States and Pakistan. That impact would be felt in an acutely controversial, sensitive and important context."

Since 2004, CIA drones have targeted suspected militants with missile strikes in the Pakistani tribal regions, killing hundreds of people. The program is controversial because of questions about its legality, the number of civilians it has killed and its impact on Pakistan`s sovereignty.

Khan`s father, Malik Daud Khan, was attending a meeting of local elders in Datta Khel, in North Waziristan, when it was hit by a missile fired from an unmanned drone, killing around 40 people.

PTI

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