|Russia denounces U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan||
Russia has put its weight behind Islamabad’s position on U.S. assassination drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal regions, describing them as violation of the country's sovereignty and integrity.
“It is not right to violate the sovereignty and integrity of any state. We fully support Pakistan’s stance,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar in Islamabad on Thursday, dawn reported.
Lavrov arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday after Russian President Vladimir Putin's plan to travel to Islamabad was cancelled.
Khar, for her part, stressed that U.S. terror drone attacks are not only “counterproductive, “but also “illegal” and “unlawful.”
Pakistani tribal regions are the target of U.S. terror drones, with Washington claiming that its unmanned aircraft are targeting militants. However, casualty figures indicate that Pakistani civilians are the main victims of the assaults.
The killing of Pakistani civilians, including women and children, in the strikes has strained relations between Islamabad and Washington, prompting Pakistani officials to send warnings to the U.S. administration over the assaults.
Despite Pakistani government’s repeated calls on Washington to end the drone attacks, the U.S. government continues its strikes on the tribal regions of the country.
Addressing the 67th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also said that U.S. assassination drone strikes were counterproductive and asked Washington to end the strikes on the country’s tribal areas.
The U.S. has carried out many drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal areas since 2008, but there has been a significant increase in the drone attacks over the past few months.
The aerial attacks, initiated by former U.S. President George W. Bush, have been escalated under President Barack Obama.
Washington claims the airstrikes target militants, but most of the attacks result in civilian casualties and have not killed the main militant leaders.
Since August 2008, thousands of people have been killed in hundreds of attacks by U.S. drones in tribal areas of Pakistan. Over 90 percent of the victims were civilians.
The issue of civilian casualties has strained relations between Islamabad and Washington, with the Pakistani government repeatedly objecting to the attacks.
Meanwhile, a group of American activists is in Pakistan, planning to join a march into the country's tribal belt to protest U.S. drone strikes, AP reported.
There have been concerns that militants will target Saturday's event.
The main Pakistani Taliban faction already has issued a statement criticizing the march, which is to be led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star-turned-politician.
Around three dozen representatives of the U.S.-based activist group CODEPINK want to march alongside Khan. They met Friday in Islamabad with victims of drone strikes.
Opponents argue the strikes kill large numbers of innocent civilians and terrorize the tribes living in Pakistan along the Afghan border.
The U.S. rarely discusses the top-secret drone program, but American officials have said the majority of those killed are Al-Qaeda and other militants.
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