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Pakistan calls for U.S. to leave airbase used for drone attacks

By the CNN Wire Staff
An activist protests against U.S. drone attacks during a rally in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 4.
An activist protests against U.S. drone attacks during a rally in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 4.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "We have told them to leave the airbase," Defense Minister Mukhtar says
  • A U.S. official calls the comments "news to us"
  • Source familiar with U.S. drone operations says the airbase is "still open for business"
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Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's defense minister called Wednesday for the United States to leave the airbase used to launch drone attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda targets on the border with Afghanistan, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

"We have told them (the U.S. officials) to leave the airbase," Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told reporters about Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan, APP reported.

Asked about the remarks, a U.S. official said the comments "are news to us" and that U.S. counterterrorism operations in Pakistan were continuing.

Separately, a source familiar with U.S. drone operations in Pakistan said the airbase in southwest Pakistan was "still open for business."

Mukhtar added that trust between the United States and Pakistan has eroded in the aftermath of the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces acting inside the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan, without Islamabad's knowledge or permission. "This trust deficit could be reduced by sitting together and taking joint actions," he told reporters in his office.

The minister said bin Laden's widows and children were still in government custody but would be sent to the country of their choice as soon as possible.

Asked the whereabouts of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Mukhtar said, "If he was in Pakistan, even then, he would have left the country after the Abbottabad incident."

He said he favored negotiations with Taliban leaders.

Mukhtar expressed confidence in his country's handling of its nuclear arsenal. "Our nuclear assets are safe and are being well-maintained," he said.

CNN's Pam Benson in Washington contributed to this story.

 
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