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Rift deepens between U.S., Pakistan over raid

New York Times

WASHINGTON - The United States and Pakistan are veering toward a deepening clash, with Pakistan's Parliament demanding a permanent halt to all drone strikes just as the most senior American envoy since the killing of Osama bin Laden is to arrive with a stern message that the country has only months to show it is truly committed to rooting out the remnants of al-Qaida and associated groups.

The United States has increased drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas in the past 10 days in an effort to exploit the uncertainty and disarray among militant ranks following bin Laden's death on May 2. The latest airstrikes, on Friday, came as Pakistan's spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, in a rare appearance before Parliament, denounced the American raid as a "sting operation."

The Parliament then passed a resolution declaring that the drone strikes were a violation of sovereignty equivalent to the secret attack on bin Laden's house in Abbottabad. The lawmakers warned that Pakistan could cut supply lines to American forces in Afghanistan if there were more such attacks.

Pakistan plays a vital role in keeping supply lines open for U.S. and Western troops battling Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. About 40 percent of NATO's nonweapons supplies move by truck from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to two crossings along the Afghan border.

The stepping up of the condemnations of the United States came as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was preparing to land in Islamabad. He was arriving with a list of actions that he finalized in a meeting on Thursday with top American security officials.

Kerry said he would tell Pakistan that there needed to be "a real demonstration of commitment" to fighting terror groups in the next few months. But he will also reassure Pakistani officials that they will be a central part of any political accord with the Taliban in Afghanistan, to ease their fears that India will take over swaths of Afghanistan as the United States pulls out.

U.S. officials say they believe the top leadership of the country was genuinely surprised about bin Laden's whereabouts. But they strongly suspect that others in the government, the military or the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the main intelligence service, were aware. So far the United States has not said what kind of inquiry Pakistan should conduct to answer those questions, and U.S. officials question whether any such investigation would be credible.

Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.