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Obama expresses condolences, but no apology to Pakistan

Eight days after a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and chilled US-Pakistan relations, President Obama called Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to express condolences, but stopped short of an apology

"The president made clear that this regrettable incident was not a deliberate attack on Pakistan and reiterated the United States' strong commitment to a full investigation," the White House said in a statement Sunday.

"The two presidents reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship, which is critical to the security of both nations, and they agreed to stay in close touch."

The conversation between Obama and Zardari was the latest bid to address strained relations between the two nations after a NATO airstrike killed the Pakistani troops near the Afghanistan border Nov 26.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta have called the incident a "tragedy" and offered condolences, though Washington has not issued a formal apology sought by Pakistan.

Meanwhile, 2008 Republican nominee John McCain repeated his charge that Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is supporting terrorist groups in Afghanistan which are killing Americans and called the situation "unacceptable."

"An investigation is going on," he told CNN Sunday. "But, also, the fact is that the ISI, the intelligence arm of the Pakistani Army is still supporting the Haqqani network, which is killing Americans. That is unacceptable."

"There are two fertiliser factories-the materials for which are used for IEDs that are killing Americans," McCain said suggesting that aid to Pakistan "has to be gauged on the degree of cooperation they show us."

Noted Indian American commentator Fareed Zakaria also made a similar point Sunday saying "it's time to recognize that the America's Pakistan policy is just not working."

Former joint chiefs of staff chairman "Admiral Mike Mullen, he noted "finally said publicly what insiders have said privately for years: Pakistan's army, despite getting over a quarter of its budget from Washington, funds and arms the most deadly terrorist group in South Asia."

"Pakistan's military needs to stop playing games to keep Afghanistan weak and India off balance," Zakaria said suggesting "There lies a fundamental tension in US policy toward Pakistan."

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