U.S. raises nuclear security worries

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From the Chicago Tribune

U.S. raises nuclear security worries By Douglas Frantz New York Times News Service

October 1, 2001

QUETTA, Pakistan -- American military and intelligence officials have talked with the Pakistani government about concerns over the security of its nuclear weapons stockpile and the country's two nuclear plants, two Pakistani officials say.

The American delegation in the capital, Islamabad, had preliminary talks with Pakistani officials last week about improving security and installing new safeguards on its nuclear weapons and at its nuclear power plants, said Pakistani officials, who were briefed on the talks.

But there are some formal limitations on how much assistance the United States can provide because Pakistan has refused to sign the treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Also, U.S. law imposes restrictions on sharing information about nuclear weapons with other countries.

Experts predict that the United States will now find ways around these hurdles, and would eventually assist Pakistan in improving surveillance at sensitive sites, sharing technology for devices to disable weapons, and advising on methods for evaluating the reliability of crucial personnel and security in the event that weapons must be transported.

The focus of the discussions last week was on how to protect weapons and create a new layer of restrictions on personnel handling them. The fear is that if there is a sustained Western attack on Afghanistan, unrest could boil over in Pakistan. Those strains would be reflected in Pakistan's army, experts say, and there is a threat that Afghan sympathizers in the military might seize control of nuclear weapons in Pakistan.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, said Sunday that he was confident the country's nuclear weapons were secure and that there was no risk of them falling into the wrong hands.

Pakistan also has worries about potential attacks on its two nuclear power plants. Security was increased at its nuclear centers within hours of the attacks in the United States. But possible divisions within the army appear to pose the gravest danger.

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 01, 2001

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