US drone attacks 'core irritant' in bilateral ties: Pak

Islamabad: Pakistan on Friday said US drone attacks in its tribal belt had become a "core irritant" in bilateral relations and top Pakistani leaders have clearly conveyed this position to their American counterparts.

"Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counter-terrorism campaign," Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua told a weekly news briefing.

She was responding to a flurry of questions about a missile strike carried out in the restive Waziristan tribal region yesterday, less than two days after a key meeting between the heads of the US spy agency CIA and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence during which Islamabad reportedly asked for the halting or limiting of attacks by the CIA- operated unmanned planes.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir lodged a "strong protest" about yesterday's attack, which killed six suspected militants, during a meeting with US envoy Cameron Munter.

Janjua made it clear that Munter was not summoned to the Foreign Office. The protest was conveyed to him during a meeting that was scheduled earlier, she said.

Pakistan attaches "immense importance" to its relations with the US and discussions were being held on the US drone attacks as part of talks on counter-terrorism measures under a multi-track engagement between the two countries, she said.

"Discussions go on between the two governments on counter-terrorism and we have made our position very clear on the issue of drones...Our position on the drone attacks has been repeatedly and clearly stated by the leadership, including the President and Prime Minister, to each and every US dignitary or US administration representative who has visited Pakistan," Janjua said.

The drone attacks emerged as a fresh irritant after the CIA-operated spy planes targeted what Pakistani officials said was a tribal jirga last month. The attack killed over 40 people.