Pakistan on Wednesday hinted at the possibility of participating in the upcoming Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, but ruled out any high-level representation on the ground that Afghan soil had been used by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to attack the country in what the Army calls a "deliberate'' act of aggression.

Agreeing to consider German Chancellor Angela Merkel's repeated requests for Islamabad's participation at the conference, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said he would refer the suggestion of having Pakistan's Ambassador in Germany attend the deliberations to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security.

This possibility emerged when Ms. Merkel called Mr. Gilani to impress upon him the importance of Pakistan's participation at the meeting to make it meaningful. As Mr. Gilani was unwilling to budge on high-level participation at the meeting, she suggested that the Ambassador be permitted to represent Pakistan so that its seat at the table was not left vacant.

In view of bilateral relations and the fact that German Foreign Minister was among the first to personally call his Pakistani counterpart to express solidarity with Pakistan and condole the death of 24 Pakistan Army soldiers in the NATO firing at Pakistani outposts on Saturday morning, Mr. Gilani agreed to refer the request for ambassadorial participation at the Bonn Conference to the Parliamentary Committee.

Meanwhile, the formal communication to the U.S. asking it to vacate the Shamsi airbase has been sent with December 11 set as the deadline even as efforts were on from various world capitals including Washington to pacify Islamabad and nudge it towards reviewing its decision to boycott the Bonn Conference.

But, Pakistan for now is sticking to its guns with the Army maintaining that there was no merit in NATO's contention that the attack was in retaliation to firing from the Pakistani side. Pakistan released footage of two posts which came under fire from helicopters of the coalition forces in Afghanistan and wanted to know where the NATO casualties were in case there was firing from the Pakistani side.

The new narrative that is coming out of NATO-sourced reports is that the coalition forces may have been lured into attacking Pakistani outposts in a calculated manouvre by terrorists who, according to International Security Assistance Force spokesman Carsten Jacobson, use the uncertainty of the border to their advantage.

Pakistan is not buying into this argument; pointing out that there were no terrorists in the area. As for the firing being accidental, the Pakistani contention is that the attack went on for two hours and cannot be brushed off as a chance encounter as NATO had been provided maps with coordinates of the Pakistan Army posts.

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