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'Obama won't formally apologise over NATO strike'

December 01, 2011 14:55 IST

The White House has ruled out United States President Barack Obama offering "formal condolences" to Pakistan over the killing of its 24 soldiers in a NATO strike, as suggested by his top diplomat in Islamabad in a desperate bid to salvage deteriorating ties, a media report said on Thursday.

"The White House has decided that President Obama will not offer formal condolences -- at least for now -- to Pakistan for the deaths of two dozen soldiers in NATO airstrikes last week, overruling State Department officials who argued for such a show of remorse to help salvage America's relationship with Pakistan," 'The New York Times' said, reflecting the mood prevailing in the administration on Pakistan right now.

The request for this came on Monday, two days after the NATO attack, from US envoy to Pakistan Cameron Munter, who said that a formal video message from Obama was needed to help prevent the rapidly deteriorating relations between the two countries from cratering, administration officials were quoted as saying by the daily.

"The ambassador, speaking by video conference from Islamabad, said that anger in Pakistan had reached a fever pitch, and that the United States needed to move to defuse it as quickly as possible," the officials said.

The suggestion from the top American diplomat in Pakistan was opposed by the Pentagon, which argued that such a move would be demoralising for their forces and noted that the statement of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in this regard was enough.

"Some administration aides also worried that if Mr Obama were to overrule the military and apologise to Pakistan, such a step could become fodder for his Republican opponents in the presidential campaign," several officials, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak publicly, told the daily.

The White House has said that Obama will not comment on it till the investigations are over, the paper reported.

On Tuesday, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) ordered an investigation into the incident in which officials of both the Afghan and Pakistan governments have been invited to participate.

"The US government has offered its deepest condolences for the loss of life, from the White House and from Secretary Clinton and (Defence) Secretary (Leon) Panetta," Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, was quoted as saying by the daily.

"We cannot offer additional comment on the circumstances of the incident until we have the results," Vietor said.

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