Pakistan has dismissed international calls to reconsider its boycott of next week's international conference on Afghanistan in Germany.
Pakistani officials said Wednesday the boycott of the December 5 summit in Bonn is in protest of last week's deadly NATO air assault that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two military posts near the Afghan border.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani informed reporters in Karachi about his telephone conversation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Tuesday.
Gilani said the Afghan leader urged him to reconsider the boycott, saying the conference is in the interest of both countries, but that he replied that Pakistan cannot play a constructive role in the Afghan peace process until its own sovereignty, security and integrity are ensured. Gilani said he told President Karzai to talk to the United States about Afghan territory being used against Pakistan.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to South Korea, said Wednesday that Washington and Islamabad should learn lessons from the incident so the two countries can continue fighting terrorism together. She pledged a quick and thorough investigation of what she called a "tragic incident."
Clinton said she regrets Pakistan's withdrawal from the conference, but added that Pakistan, like the United States, has a "profound interest in a secure, stable and increasingly democratic Afghanistan."
Merkel makes personal appeal
Also Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Gilani to express solidarity with Pakistan and to urge him to reconsider his boycott of the Bonn conference. Gilani replied he regretted that he would not be able to oblige her request, but said his government would consider having Pakistan's ambassador to Germany represent Islamabad's interests at the conference.
Pakistani General Ashfaq Nadeem said Tuesday the NATO assault was a "deliberate act of aggression" and questioned whether Pakistan would participate in Washington's investigation into the air assault.
Pentagon spokesman George Little insisted Wednesday, though, that "in no way, shape or form can the incident be construed as an intentional act on Pakistan by the United States."
US probe underway
The U.S. military has until December 23 to submit the findings of its investigation. NATO also has launched a probe.
The Bonn conference is aimed at developing a strategy to stabilize Afghanistan as coalition forces withdraw in the coming years. Many analysts agree that peace in Afghanistan hinges on whether Pakistan plays a constructive role in the process.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, said that when delegates meet in Bonn, they also must talk about strengthening Afghanistan's media. The New York-based group said Afghan journalists need to be better trained, and must know how to survive the threats and dangers that are part of their daily lives in order to ensure the country's fragile democracy has robust media.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.