NATO invites Pakistan to Chicago summit

BRUSSELS Tue May 15, 2012 9:38am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO said on Tuesday it had invited Pakistan to a summit in Chicago next week, lifting a veiled threat that it might exclude the country from the talks on the future of Afghanistan.

"Allies decided to invite President (Asif Ali) Zardari of Pakistan to Chicago to the meeting on Afghanistan, which will include ISAF contributor nations, as well as Japan, Russia, other countries from the region and international organizations," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a statement.

ISAF refers to the International Security Assistance Force, a NATO-led force operating in Afghanistan.

"This meeting will underline the strong commitment of the international community to the people of Afghanistan and to its future. Pakistan has an important role to play in that future," Lungescu said.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen suggested on Friday that Pakistan could be excluded from the summit if it failed to reopen the supply routes to Afghanistan that it closed after 24 of its soldiers were killed by a NATO cross-border air attack last November.

Rasmussen noted that other countries providing supply routes to NATO had been invited to the summit, which will map out a future for Afghanistan after most foreign combat troops are withdrawn at the end of 2014.

Pakistan has demanded a formal apology from the United States for the attack before it reopens the supply routes, and has also called for an end to U.S. drone strikes on its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistan boycotted an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn in December in protest against the NATO air strikes.

(Reporting By Sebastian Moffett; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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