AP sources: Pakistan requests US close drone base

AP News
Posted: Jul 01, 2011 6:19 PM
AP sources: Pakistan requests US close drone base

Pakistani officials say they've again asked the U.S. to cease all drone operations at Pakistan's Shamsi Air Base in a remote part of the country.

The officials say it's part of a larger request that the U.S. cease targeting militants in Pakistan's tribal areas without notifying Islamabad in advance, first made much earlier this year, after the controversy when a CIA contractor killed two Pakistani men in Lahore in January.

London's Guardian newspaper quoted Pakistan's defense minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar saying Wednesday that the Americans had to leave.

The most recent request was made to outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta on Thursday. That's according to one of the two Pakistani officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the high-level talks.

Panetta assumed his new post as Pentagon chief Friday.

A U.S. official would only say the base in the province of Baluchistan in southwest Pakistan is under discussion, as the two nations continue to work to rebuild and redefine their relationship that soured after the contractor dispute, then took a nosedive after the unilateral U.S. special operations raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May.

The Pakistanis say the U.S. had already responded earlier this year, by ceasing offensive drone operations from the base. But they still employ it for drones to land if weather prevents them from returning to neighboring Afghanistan, the officials said.