Pak minister slams US drone strikes

PARIS: Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, on Tuesday attacked the United States' ongoing bombing campaign against suspected militant leaders in his country.

US military and intelligence agencies fly pilotless aircraft over areas along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, firing missiles at targets suspected of links to the Taliban or to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan, which is fighting its own campaign against the militants, has long criticised the strikes, which have been stepped up since President Barack Obama was elected and which have reportedly killed around 700 civilians.

But many observers say that Islamabad, while publicly condemning the drone attacks, is secretly cooperating with the US campaign and has provided a base from which some of the raids are operated.

"Well, if you talk of drones, our whole nation has condemned them. Our four regional assemblies, our national assembly, our senate all passed unanimous resolutions saying no to drones," Malik told France 24 television.

"We said to the United States: 'You are a great champion of democracy, and here is a small democratic country with all voices saying stop the drones. I think the US must listen and must stop the drones," he said.

"If they give us real time information we're quite capable of handling Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. If we are given the information I assure you that we have the capability to take the necessary action against him."

In May, Obama's new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, described the bombing as "very effective" ... "it's the only game in town in terms of confronting and trying to disrupt the Al-Qaeda leadership."

Nevertheless, while the drone war has ramped up, with reportedly 48 such strikes since August 2008, the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and other extremists continues unabated, analysts say.