Pakistan accuses Kabul of 'overreaction' over cross-border firing

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan on Thursday accused Afghanistan of overreacting after Kabul cancelled a military visit to protest against cross-border firing, in the latest sign of worsening relations.

"We believe that Afghanistan overreacted to a small incident," foreign ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry told AFP.

The Pakistani army invited 11 Afghan officers to take part in a military exercise in the southwestern city of Quetta, but the Afghan government called their visit off because of "unacceptable Pakistani artillery shelling".

The governor of the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, Fazlulah Wahidi, told AFP that up to 50 rockets fired from Pakistan damaged property on Monday and Tuesday.

The Pakistani foreign ministry said its "disciplined and responsible" troops had responded to what it called "some intrusions from the Afghan side".

The spokesman said the army visit had been designed to increase "mutual cooperation and confidence, and we believe such activities should continue in the larger interest of peace in the region".

Western officials believe Pakistan, which backed Afghanistan's 1996-2001 Taleban regime, has a crucial role to play in shoring up peace efforts between Kabul and Taleban insurgents.

But Afghanistan and Pakistan deeply distrust each other and trade blame for Taleban violence plaguing both sides of their 2,400km border, drawn up by British colonialists and known as the Durrand Line.

Relations had recently improved, building up to a three-way summit hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron on Feb 4 as part of efforts to end 11 years of war in Afghanistan.

But since then, there have been a series of public accusations and disagreements between Afghan and Pakistani officials.

Late Wednesday the bodies of 15 men believed to have died fighting Nato and Afghan forces in Afghanistan's Helmand province were handed over to clerics on the Pakistani border in the southwestern district of Chagai, officials said.

The nationalities of the dead men were not immediately clear.

"We don't know if they were linked to the Pakistani Taleban or were militants among Afghan refugees," said government official Akbar Durrani in Quetta.

A local official who saw the bodies said they had bullet wounds. "They were believed to have been killed in a clash with Afghan and Nato troops in Helmand," he said.

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