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Pakistani Leaders Denounce Suspected US Strikes

A suspected U.S. missile strike has killed at least 14 people in a militant stronghold in northwest Pakistan. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Pakistan's capital where lawmakers and the military are responding to a surge in strikes against militant targets by vowing to defend the country's territorial integrity.

The latest suspected U.S. missile strike occurred outside Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal agency, which is considered to be a militant stronghold.

Similar strikes against suspected al-Qaida hideouts in Pakistan regularly draw some criticism from Pakistani officials, but last week's ground assault by U.S. forces in the South Waziristan tribal agency has drawn much stronger responses.

U.S. officials revealed this week that President Bush has authorized U.S. forces to conduct raids inside Pakistan without approval from Pakistani officials. In Islamabad, lawmakers and military officers have responded with alarm.

Opposition leader Nisar Ali Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-N Party said Friday that Pakistan is now under the threat of war.

"We are a democratic country so before making these statements I think our friends in the west should first ascertain whether Pakistan is an ally or an enemy," he said.

He called for a joint session of parliament to decide how to respond to the cross border attacks in the future.

Owais Ghani is the top administrator of Pakistan's tribal regions as the governor of the North West Frontier Province. He released a statement suggesting that both militants battling the Pakistani troops and coalition forces are now trying to weaken Pakistan.

Pakistan's military has been fighting militants in Bajaur since early August. On Friday an army spokesman said soldiers killed at least 32 militants in the latest fighting.

U.S. and Afghan officials have blamed parts of Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies of helping Taliban militants stage attacks inside Afghanistan. There is widespread concern about how much control Pakistan's new civilian government has over the country's powerful security agencies.

Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kayani has said no foreign forces are allowed to conduct operations inside Pakistan and the country's sovereignty will be defended "at all costs."

On Friday, General Kayani released a statement saying that all security agencies, under the country's democratic leadership, "will safeguard the territorial integrity" of Pakistan.