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U.N. team sides with Pakistan in dispute over U.S. drone strikes

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 5:27 p.m.

ISLAMABAD — The head of a U.N. team that made a secret investigation of casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared on Friday that the attacks violate Islamabad's sovereignty.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes — a position that has been disputed by American officials.

“It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states,” said Emmerson.

President Obama stepped up covert CIA drone strikes targeting al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists in Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border when he took office in 2009.

The strikes have caused growing controversy because of the secrecy surrounding them and claims that they have caused significant civilian casualties — allegations denied by the United States.

According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator's three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.

Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson's team, said that the organization he runs, the Center for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed about 200 civilians.

The U.N. investigation into civilian casualties from drone strikes and other targeted killings in Pakistan and several other countries began in January and is expected to deliver its conclusions in October.

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