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Pakistan to Boycott International Conference

Islamabad: Pakistan has decided to boycott an international conference on Afghanistan’s future in protest at NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in a Pakistani-Afghan border region last week.

Officials say the Cabinet of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed on the boycott during a meeting in Lahore Tuesday.

The conference is due to be held in Bonn, Germany next Monday. U.S. and Afghan officials had urged Pakistan to attend the forum, which is aimed at developing a strategy to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw in the coming years.

The top U.S. military officer said Monday Pakistan is justified in being angry about the NATO airstrikes that struck several Pakistani border posts on Saturday, but he declined to apologize, citing the need for an investigation.

In an interview with British television network ITV, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey said Islamabad has a “reason to be furious” that the weapons that killed the Pakistani troops were the “ordnance of a partner.”

Speaking on a visit to London, General Dempsey appealed for patience from Pakistan to “find out what happened.” The airstrikes hit Pakistani positions in an area of poorly-marked and disputed borders between Afghanistan’s Kunar province and Pakistan’s Mohmand tribal region.

The U.S. military said Monday an Air Force general will lead an investigation of the incident and compile an initial report by December 23.

The military says Brigadier General Stephen Clark will work with representatives of NATO and the Afghan and Pakistani governments to determine how to prevent similar situations in the future. The United States has expressed regret for the loss of Pakistani lives.

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