US denies one of its drones crashed in Pakistan


The Pakistani military said today a pilotless aircraft that crashed in the northwestern region of South Waziristan had been recovered, but the Pentagon denied any US drone had been lost in the area.

Other countries with troops in the Nato-led force in neighbouring Afghanistan use unmanned aerial vehicles, but the United States is the only one known to fly them inside Pakistan. Britain also said none of its aircraft operating in Afghanistan were missing.

A spate of recent missile attacks by unmanned US aircraft in Pakistan has strained ties between the allies. Pakistan has said such attacks are a violation of its sovereignty and the army has vowed to defend Pakistani territory.

The USmilitary said tonight one of its aerial vehicles had gone down with engine problems in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, about 100 kilometres west of the Pakistani border  yesterday, but US forces had immediately recovered the aircraft.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said there were no reports of any downed unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the Pakistani and U.Sstatements. Pakistan has not yet displayed the wreckage of the aircraft it said it found.

President Asif Ali Zardari met US president George W. Bush in New York yesterday and spoke strongly about protecting Pakistani sovereignty, Mr Bush said.

Pakistan's stance was set out clearly by prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani at a news conference in Islamabad.
"We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by anyone in the name of combating terrorism," Mr Gilani said.

Pakistan's support is regarded as crucial both to the success of Western forces trying to stabilise Afghanistan and in the fight against al-Qaeda. But US impatience has grown over what it sees as Pakistan's failure to eliminate the militant threat on its side of the Afghan border.