US withholds comment about drones in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: The United States has withheld its comment on UN special rapporteur’s finding that American drone strikes into Pakistani tribal areas are in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

“I can tell you that our administration is aware of (UN special rapporterur) (Ben) Emmerson’s report. But at this point, I don’t have a specific comment on either intelligence operations or any military operations,” a White House spokesman said.

Josh Earnest, Principal Deputy Press Secretary at the White House, said the Obama administration is in regular and close contact with Pakistan.

“We have a solid working relationship with them on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security relationship. And we’re in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues, particularly the ones that relate to security,” he added, when asked to comment on Emmerson’s finding revealed in Islamabad Friday on drone operations the US conducts in pursuit of terrorism suspects.

The spokesman said the Obama administration is in contact with Emmerson would carefully consider any requests the UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism asks of it on the issue.

“At this point, we’re going to withhold judgment on the actual report. But we’re in touch with Emmerson, and if there are requests for information that are made of the administration, then we’ll carefully consider those requests.”

Pressed further for the administration’s position on the issue, the spokesman responded:

“Again, I want to withhold judgment on the actual report in terms of the claims that they’re making. I just want to leave it — reiterating for you that we do have an open, ongoing dialogue with Pakistan on a whole range of issues, and including a close, cooperative security relationship.”

The UN special rapporteur concluded from his investigation that “as a matter of international law, the US drone campaign in Pakistan is being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people or the legitimate government of the state.”

Emmerson, who is British and has been investigating the impact of US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the civilian population, is expected to issue a final report to the United Nations in October.