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NATO attack in Pakistan was 'self-defense,' says US

The Pakistani government strongly condemned a series of manned airstrikes on Pakistani soil, including two NATO attacks that officials say killed about 55 suspected insurgents over the weekend.

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Pakistan protested angrily Monday after the US-led international force in Afghanistan confirmed that its helicopters staged cross-border air strikes last week against Pakistan-based Afghan militants "in self defense."

Islamabad's sharp reaction to the helicopter strikes Saturday came despite a long-standing understanding that allows the US-led International Security Assistance Force to pursue militants who attack Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan's rugged tribal territory.

ISAF usually informs the Pakistani military of any such incursion, but "in this instance, there was no coordination until after, because of the imminent danger to the troops," said a US defense official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "This goes to the inherent right of self-defense."

In a related development, US Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander of coalition forces, said that US-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai had received overtures from senior Taliban leaders responding to his initiative to open peace negotiations.

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