UNITED NATIONS A UN expert came down heavily on the United States reliance on deadly drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan on Wednesday, identifying Washington as the worlds No 1 user of targeted killings. A report released in Geneva by Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, called the drone attacks part of a strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability and warned that they are contributing to an erosion of longstanding international rules governing warfare. It urged states to identify publicly the rules of international law believed to provide a basis for any attempted targeted killings as well as the rationale for deciding to kill instead of capture individuals. The rules being set today are going to govern the conduct of many states tomorrow, Alston, a New York University law professor who authored the report, said in Geneva. The international community needs to be more forceful in demanding accountability. Alston, who reports to the UN Human Rights Council, said that roughly 40 countries possess drone technology, and many of them either have or are attempting to acquire the capability to launch missiles from drones. Im particularly concerned that the United States seems oblivious to this fact when it asserts an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals around the globe, he said. This ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions. In the eight years of George W Bushs presidency, unmanned aircraft - or drones - attacked militant targets 45 times. Since President Obama took office, the numbers have risen sharply: 53 last year and 39 this year in Pakistan alone, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington foreign policy think tank. Though the United States is the only country in the Pakistan/Afghanistan region known to have the ability to launch missiles from drones - which are controlled remotely - US officials normally do not comment on suspected drone strikes. The report distinguishes between drone attacks conducted by the Pentagon and those launched by the CIA. The US military has a relatively public accountability process, Alston said. But CIA attacks responsible for the deaths of many hundreds of people ... remain shrouded in official secrecy. The international community does not know when or where the CIA is authorised to kill, the criteria for individuals who may be killed, how it ensures killings are legal and what follow-up there is when civilians are illegally killed, he said. Alston, who backs an end to CIA drone attacks, argued that intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programs that kill people in other countries. CIA spokesman George Little took issue with Alstons claim of a lack of accountability. Without discussing or confirming any specific action or program, this agencys operations unfold within a framework of law and close government oversight, he said. The accountabilitys real, and it would be wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise. The report cited two key issues: excessively broad circumstances under which targeted killings are deemed to be legal and the lack of accountability when they are used. Alston conceded that the conflict with al Qaeda and other extremist organizations poses a unique challenge and noted that al Qaeda routinely kills innocent civilians. But the fact that such enemies do not play by the rules does not mean that a government can cast those rules aside or unilaterally re-interpret them, he said. The credibility of any governments claim that it is fighting to uphold the rule of law depends of its willingness to disclose how it interprets and applies the law - and the actions it takes when the law is broken. Targeted killings pose a rapidly growing challenge to the international rule of law. They are increasingly used in circumstances which violate the relevant rules of international law. The international community needs to be more forceful in demanding accountability, Alston added.