WASHINGTON – Pakistan's prime minister on Sunday condemned an American airstrike on a remote Pakistani village, saying such attacks should be cleared with Islamabad first.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said no understanding exists between U.S. and Pakistani officials that allows American military forces to attack alleged terrorists in Pakistan without first consulting the government.
"The understanding is that we will work together," Aziz said. "We will work in collaboration with each other."
Pakistani officials have said they weren't given notice before the Jan. 13 attack that killed at least 13 civilians, including women and children. The attack was apparently aimed at Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, who wasn't there.
Pakistan, Aziz said, "has regretted and condemned the incident and said that such incidents should not reoccur. We need to work together. There is no difference in the objectives of the two countries, so there is no reason why we shouldn't communicate."
Pakistan is a key U.S. ally, but it has strongly protested the airstrike, which has angered many in the Islamic nation of 150 million and sparked friction between Islamabad and Washington.
Aziz is scheduled to meet this week with U.S. President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The strike is believed to have killed at least four of al-Zawahri's close associates in the village of Damadola close to the border with Afghanistan.
But Aziz told a U.S. cable news network that "we have not found one body or one shred of evidence that these people were there," referring to suspected terrorists.
Aziz also "totally" dismissed the notion that a secret U.S. attack was prompted by the view that some in the Pakistani military and intelligence community might sympathize with Al Qaeda.
"If you see the number of lives we have lost chasing these terrorists, the number of people we have picked up all over the country, ... it shows that we have a very effective security apparatus, intelligence apparatus, which has delivered results," he said.
On Saturday, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf told visiting U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns that the airstrike cannot be repeated, a foreign ministry official said.
Musharraf, the official said, also assured Burns that Pakistan would not waver in its support for Washington's War on Terror.