Islamabad: Toughening its stand, Pakistan military on Monday rejected NATO's version that Pakistani forces' provocation led to its firing on border posts that killed 24 troops even as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani claimed that there would be no "business as usual" with the US henceforth.

Prime Minister's bold claims came at a time when large scale protests were organised in Pakistan against the incident on Saturday when NATO and International Security Assistance Force fighter jets and helicopters from Afghanistan targeted two Pakistani military border posts.

The Pakistan military also rejected the regret expressed by the NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen for the cross-border air strike and warned that the action could have "grave consequences".

"NATO forces should present proof if they were claiming that firing was started from Pakistani side," Director General, Inter Services Public Relations Major General Athar Abbas said while stating that the regret expressed by NATO over the killing of the Pakistani soldiers is "not enough".

Gilani, who could not attend his son's wedding party on Saturday due to the incident, on Monday said, "Business as usual will not be there. Therefore we have to have something bigger...to satisfy my country."

He said Pakistan-US relations could "continue on mutual respect and mutual interest".

Gilani was responding to questions by CNN on whether bilateral ties had reached a point of no return.

His comments came as Pakistan's all weather ally China strongly voiced its support to Islamabad during a 40-minute telephonic conversation between Chinese and Pakistani foreign Ministers.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Monday spoke to her Chinese counterpart to brief him on the NATO air strike, an incident that has "deeply shocked" Beijing.

Pakistan has reacted angrily to the killing of two dozen soldiers, including two officers, in the NATO air strike in Mohmand tribal region on the border with Afghanistan.

It has closed all NATO supply routes and has asked the US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days, believed to be used by CIA-operated drones.

The Pakistani civilian government and the military finds itself in a tough spot over the attacks because of the large-scale public resentment. Even the lawyers in cities across Pakistan observed a strike on Monday to protest the cross-border NATO air attacks.

Gilani's predicament can be gauged from his statement in which he said that his government needed the backing of the people to succeed in the war on terrorism.

"You cannot win any war without the support of the masses and we need the people with us. Such sort of incidents, they're making people move away from this situation," he said.

Pakistan was re-evaluating its relationship with the US but had not yet decided whether to boycott next month's Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, Gilani said.

Pakistan wanted to maintain its relationship with the US as long as there was mutual respect and respect for its sovereignty, he said.

Gilani highlighted incidents such as the killing of Pakistani troops and the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May as violations of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Even the dreaded Pakistani Taliban too stepped into the war of words with its spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan telling CNN that Pakistan should respond in kind to the NATO attacks.

He warned that the Taliban will continue their jihad as long as Pakistan remains an ally of the US.

Incidentally, after Pakistan asked the US to vacate a military airbase in Balochistan that is reportedly controlled by the UAE, the Foreign Minister of the Gulf nation on Monday arrived in Islamabad and held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.

UAE to discuss Shamsi airbase


Two days after Pakistan asked the US to vacate a military airbase in Balochistan that is
reportedly controlled by the UAE, the Foreign Minister of the Gulf nation on Monday arrived in Islamabad and held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.

The Pakistan government angrily responded to Saturday's cross-border NATO air strike that killed 24 of its soldiers by asking the US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days. Shamsi
is believed to be the main base for CIA-operated drones that targets Taliban strongholds in the north-west Pakistan.

Numerous reports have said that the UAE has controlled Shamsi since the 1990s.

A statement issued by the presidency said UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan had met President Zardari to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues.

The statement did not say whether the two leaders had discussed the issue of Shamsi airbase.

Days after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2, Pakistan's deputy chief of air staff reportedly told an in-camera session of the Parliament that the Shamsi airbase had been under the control of the UAE since the 1990s.

In July, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar told reporters that the US, "by way of the UAE" had been allowed the use of Shamsi airbase for non-lethal weaponry, such as unarmed drones, and as a logistics support site.

"The understanding was that the drones would fly from Shamsi base but only for surveillance...They were not supposed to be lethal and the next thing we knew they were using it for military attacks," Mukhtar had then said.

The statement issued by the presidency said Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah held a one-on-one meeting with the President that was followed by a delegation-level meeting.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other senior officials were part of the Pakistani delegation.

Zardari said Pakistan "greatly values its bonds of fraternity with the UAE and is keen to expand cooperation" in different fields.

He emphasised the need to strengthen trade relations.

Sheikh Abdullah assured Zardari of the UAE's continued support to Pakistan in the fight against militancy and rehabilitation of infrastructure damaged by natural calamities.

(Agencies)