NATO eyes Pakistan supply resumption after apology

Thu Oct 7, 2010 11:16am GMT

By Emma Graham-Harrison

KABUL (Reuters) - A U.S. apology for a helicopter strike inside Pakistan has raised hopes of an end to a week-long blockade of a vital NATO supply line, although the alliance said Thursday it was not hindering the war in Afghanistan.

The U.S. ambassador to Islamabad said late Wednesday that the cross-border raid, which killed two Pakistani soldiers and triggered the supply shut-down, was a "terrible accident."

A joint NATO-Pakistani report released the same day said gunmen aboard the Apaches had likely mistaken warning shots from the border guards for an insurgent attack when they opened fire.

Pakistan closed the supply route through its territory on September 30 after NATO helicopters strayed over the border several times, culminating in the shooting.

The military cited security concerns, but the move was taken as a pointed response to a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

"I think the U.S. apology and NATO regrets should be more than enough and I don't believe that the issue of reopening of the route will drag on," said Mehmood Shah, former security chief of the Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

"By closing the route, Pakistanis wanted to convey a message and I think they (NATO) have learnt the lesson."

The closure of the route through the famous Khyber Pass was followed by a series of attacks on dozens of fuel tankers plying a second, southern route into the country to supply NATO troops.   Continued...

<p>A school boy, wearing a backpack, walks past burning fuel tankers along the GT road in Nowshera, located in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province October 7, 2010. REUTERS/Adrees Latif</p>
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