WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta all but ruled out an apology over an air strike last year that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and badly set back efforts to improve US-Pakistani ties, saying it was "time to move on."

Pakistan banned trucks from carrying NATO supplies into neighboring Afghanistan after the air strike, a move that costs US taxpayers $100 million a month given the need to use more expensive, longer routes to the north.

To re-open the routes, Pakistan wants to impose high tariffs on NATO supplies and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said last week that Islamabad is still seeking an unconditional apology.

But Panetta, in an interview with Reuters on Thursday, suggested that past expressions of regret and condolences were enough and held out hope that troubled talks on re-opening Pakistani supply routes for the NATO war effort could succeed anyway.

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