Petraeus says he’ll consider Pakistan criticisms

Washington’s new top war general said he would consider rising Pakistani criticism of U.S. missile strikes on suspected militant targets in the Muslim nation’s unstable border regions.

Pakistani military and government leaders told Gen. David Petraeus that such cross-border strikes fanned anti-American sentiment in an allied country considered vital to success in the war on terror. Petraeus was likely to hear more of the same in meetings set for Tuesday.

From  STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer Stephen Graham, Associated Press Writer

In an interview with CNN, Petraeus confirmed the Pakistani criticisms in Monday’s sessions.

U. S. Central Command Gen. David Petraeus, left, meets Pakistani ...
U. S. Central Command Gen. David Petraeus, left, meets Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, Nov 3, 2008. Pakistani officials warned Gen. Petraeus on Monday that frequent missile strikes on militant targets in Pakistan fan anti-American sentiment in an Islamic country vital to the struggle against terrorism. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

“In fact, we got certain messages with each of those we talked to today and some of those were very clear and we have to take those on board,” CNN quoted Petraeus as saying. “The tone of the conversation was very frank and very forthright, as it should be,” he added later.

Petraeus was in Pakistan as part of his first international trip since taking over U.S. Central Command last week. He has met with President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani among other senior leaders so far.

The U.S. is concerned about Islamic militants using pockets of Pakistan’s northwest region as sanctuaries from which to support the escalating insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.

Complaints from U.S. commanders about Pakistan’s efforts to counter the insurgents have been accompanied by a surge of missile strikes on suspected Taliban and al-Qaida targets, despite strong condemnation in Pakistan.

According to the state-run APP news agency, Zardari told Petraeus and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher that the attacks from drone aircraft should be stopped.

“Continuing drone attacks on our territory, which result in loss of precious lives and property, are counterproductive and difficult to explain by a democratically elected government,” Zardari was quoted as saying.

Zardari said the government was “under pressure to react more aggressively” to the strikes.

Washington is suspected in at least 17 missile strikes in Pakistan since August.

In September, a U.S. ground assault in a tribal region in Pakistan’s northwest spurred particular outrage. Days later, Pakistani troops challenged two American helicopters operating near the border and U.S. and Pakistani ground forces in the area exchanged fire.

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