|Pakistan to down U.S. assassination drones||
Amid escalating tensions between the United States and Pakistan, Islamabad has warned that it will shoot down any American assassination drone intruding its airspace.
"Any object entering into our airspace, including U.S. drones, will be treated as hostile and be shot down," a senior Pakistani military official told NBC News on Sunday.
In a speech to troops on the border, Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiani told them to use all means at their disposal to give a “shattering response” to any aggression -- whatever the price or consequences.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that Islamabad would continue its blocking of NATO convoys supplying goods to U.S.-led foreign forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Gilani also refused, in a BBC interview published Sunday, to rule out the closing of Pakistan's airspace to all U.S. flights.
The U.S. military and NATO rely heavily on the Pakistani supply route into landlocked Afghanistan, more so now that Taliban attacks are increasing.
Supplies arrive by sea in the southern port city of Karachi, where security analysts believe most of the Afghan Taliban leadership is now hiding. From there, they must travel in long, exposed convoys through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwest Pakistan.
Pakistan decided to halt the supply convoys destined for U.S.-led foreign soldiers occupying Afghanistan in response to deadly U.S.-led NATO airstrikes on November 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at two checkpoints on the Afghan border.
During the interview, the Pakistani prime minister also dismissed reports claiming that the country's ailing President Asif Ali Zardari has suffered a stroke and that the army planned to oust him.
However, he went on to add that Zardari will remain in a Dubai hospital in the United Arab Emirates for two more weeks.
According to some reports, the 56-year-old president last week suffered a temporary ischemic attack, which can produce stroke-like symptoms but no lasting damage to the brain.
“Zardari was making a rapid improvement,” Gilani emphasized.
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