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US Defends Anti-Terrorist Strategy After Pakistani Protest

The Bush administration Wednesday defended what it described as its tough decisions in combating terrorism, after a Pakistani protest of reported U.S. missile strikes from Afghanistan against militants in Pakistan. Syria has protested a similar incident this week. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

U.S. officials decline specific comment on reported strikes in Pakistan along the Afghan border. But they do confirm that the U.S. Ambassador was summoned to hear an official Pakistani protest Wednesday, and are offering a general defense of U.S. anti-terrorism tactics.

Pakistani officials say U.S. envoy Anne Patterson was called in to hear a strong protest, two days after a missile strike by a drone aircraft in South Waziristan killed 20 people, including several Taliban fighters according to press accounts.

There was a similar attack in a nearby border area last Friday and as many as 20 missile strikes, and one reported ground incursion by U.S. forces, since August.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said after the meeting with the U.S. envoy that the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty and should be stopped immediately. It also said they are counter-productive in getting people in the border areas to oppose extremists.

At a news briefing here, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the call-in of the U.S. envoy was not an unusual occurrence and that overall U.S.-Pakistan cooperation in fighting violent extremists has been very good.

McCormack, along with his White House counterpart, would not discuss specific incidents. But he said President Bush and his administration have had to make a lot of tough decisions to protect American lives in the anti-terrorism fight, and that it will be no different for the next U.S. president elected next week.

"The president and his advisers, believe they have pursued proper courses of action, writ large. Again, I can't comment on any specifics in this regard. The next administration coming in: they're going to have to make their own decisions about these issues. But nobody should be under the illusion that it isn't a dangerous world out there, and that there aren't threats to the United States, our friends, our friends, our allies and our interests. And it is the most fundamental responsibility of a government to protect its people," he said.

McCormack said the believes Pakistani authorities know it is in their best interests to address the threat from violent extremists, whose agenda he said is as much a danger to Pakistan as the United States.

On another issue, the spokesman said the U.S. charge d'affaires in Damascus was called to the Syrian Foreign Ministry Wednesday for the second time this week, apparently to hear another Syrian protest of a reported border attack by Iraq-based U.S. forces last Sunday.

New accounts said the helicopter-borne attack by U.S. forces into Syria killed an Iraqi militant who had been helping smuggle foreign fighters and weapons into Iraq.

Syria has filed a complaint with the United Nations and reportedly has ordered the U.S. cultural center and American community school in Damascus closed because of the incident.

However McCormack said both institutions were still open for business on Wednesday.