Lahore/Islamabad: Pakistan will boycott the upcoming crucial Bonn Conference on Afghanistan to protest a deadly cross-border NATO air raid, described by the Army as a "deliberate act of aggression", a move that threatens to derail the country's already fragile ties with the US.
     
The decision to stay away from the crucial conference to be held in the German city on December 5 was taken at a three-hour special meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Lahore this afternoon.
   
Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmed, the Pakistan Army's Director General of Military Operations, told news anchors and defence analysts during a briefing in Rawalpindi that Saturday's air strike in which 24 soldiers were killed was a "deliberate act of aggression".
   
Ahmed was quoted by media as saying that it was "next to impossible" that NATO forces were not aware they were attacking Pakistani troops.
     
The latest developments added to tensions between Pakistan and the US, whose ties have been under severe strain since the American military raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2.
     
They will also affect Pakistan's cooperation with the US and NATO in efforts to end the violence in Afghanistan.      

The federal cabinet reaffirmed Pakistan's support for stability and peace in Afghanistan but decided the country could not participate in the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan.
     
"Pakistan looks forward to the success of this Conference but in view of the developments and prevailing circumstances has decided not to participate in the Conference," said a statement issued after the cabinet meeting. "Actions such as (the NATO) attacks were contrary to the spirit of partnership and business as usual was no longer possible," the statement said.
   
The cabinet emphasised the importance of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation and expressed the hope that the world community would "reaffirm its support for peace and development in Afghanistan" at the Bonn Conference.      

The cabinet called on the world community to take cognizance of incidents like the NATO attack, which "constitute a violation of the UN Charter principles, international law and could have serious repercussions for regional peace and security".
     
It is "imperative that all sides realise the gravity of the situation and exercise utmost restraint", the statement said.
     
The cabinet backed the Defence Committee of the Cabinet's decision to close all NATO supply lines and to ask the US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days.
     
Shamsi, which is controlled by the UAE, is reportedly a key base for CIA-operated drones.      

Prime Minister Gilani told the meeting there "could be no compromise on Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity" or the nation's resolve to safeguard its frontiers at any cost while the cabinet described the NATO attack as "an assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan".
     
The cabinet further endorsed the Defence Committee of the Cabinet's decision to review Pakistan's cooperation with the US, NATO and International Security Assistance Force and "regretted that despite Pakistan's continued efforts to play a positive role for stability and peace in countering terrorism and militancy in the region, the sacrifices of the nation have not been recognized".

P During the briefing for anchors and analysts in Rawalpindi, Maj Gen Ahmed and Lt Gen Waheed Arshad, the Chief of General Staff, held ISAF responsible for the attack on two Pakistani military border posts.
     
ThoughNATO forces had knowledge of Pakistani posts, NATO helicopters entered three kilometres inside Pakistani territory and resorted to unprovoked firing, Arshad said.
     
Ahmed and Arshad both said any investigation into the incident is unlikely to get to the bottom of the matter.
     
The Pakistan Army on Monday said a total of 72 soldiers had died in NATO attacks over the past three years. Gilani has said he will call a joint session of both houses of the Parliament to discuss the NATO attack after he receives the parliamentary committee on national security’s recommendations on the incident.

(Agencies)