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US offers nuclear protection to Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The United States has offered to teach Pakistan how to protect its nuclear weapons and Pakistan has accepted.
Quoting Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar, Pakistani newspapers reported Friday that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made this offer when he visited Islamabad last month.
According to Sattar, Powell invited Pakistan to send its experts to the United States to "see how Americans protect their weapons."
Asked about Pakistan's response, he said: "Positive offers are not turned down, at least not from friendly countries."
Recent reports in the U.S. media have expressed concerns about the security of Pakistani nuclear weapons. Some reports suggested that Muslim extremists could get these weapons if the ongoing campaign against President Pervez Musharraf gets out of control.
Over a dozen Muslim religious organizations are protesting Musharraf's decision to back U.S military strikes into Afghanistan, urging him to support neighboring Muslim nation's Taliban leaders instead.
Although still small, the rallies have grown bigger since Oct. 7 when the United States launched military strikes into Afghanistan because Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.
Quoting official sources, some newspapers reported that the Bush administration was concerned that the agitation may get worse and lead to the collapse of the Musharraf government.
They also reported that U.S. and Israeli special forces were already conducting joint exercises to take out Pakistan's nuclear weapons should the Musharraf government collapse.
Dismissing these reports as "baseless fears," the Pakistani foreign minister assured that Pakistan's "nuclear weapons already are in secure hands."
He said that Pakistan has "a concrete control and command center for its nuclear weapons and nobody except those responsible for their security has access to them."
Earlier this week, Pakistan received unlikely support for its position on this issue. Addressing a seminar in New Delhi, India's Defense Minister George Fernandes said Wednesday that "politics aside, we believe Pakistanis are responsible people and quite capable of defending their nuclear assets."
Both India and Pakistan tested their nuclear devices in May 1998 and since then have been working on various programs to develop control and delivery systems.
-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), November 01, 2001
N-assets under foolproof controls: Sattar rejects analysts' fears
By Our Staff Reporter
ISLAMABAD, Nov 1: Pakistan on Thursday reassured the international community that its nuclear assets were under foolproof custodial controls, and brushed aside apprehensions about these falling into the hands of extremists.
"Dedicated formations of specially equipped forces have been deployed for ensuring the security of Pakistan nuclear installations and assets," Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said in a statement read out at the daily briefing of the Foreign Office.
To the surprise of local and foreign correspondents, Mr Sattar came down to the briefing hall to make the statement.
Foreign governments, he said, were aware of the security and protection of Pakistan's nuclear assets but some analyst were expressing fears, which, he added, were unfounded.
"In order to reassure the world community that Pakistan's strategic assets are under foolproof custodial controls, it is necessary to respond to concerns expressed in some foreign journals," Mr Sattar said.
Pakistan, he said, had an impeccable record of custodial safety and security free of any incident of theft or leakage of nuclear material, equipment or technology.
"The credit goes to the armed forces which are guardians of Pakistan's strategic assets," he said. Similarly, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has an unblemished record of safety and security of the nuclear power plants and other civilian projects which are under safeguards, and subject to periodic inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
He said the government had constantly maintained, developed and upgraded command and control systems and custodial security procedures. It had invested requisite financial and personnel resources in order to devise and apply ironclad measures to deal with all contingencies of threat to strategic assets, he added.
"Safe custody in storage is ensured by dedicated formations of specially equipped forces," he said. A strategic force command has been established for each of three armed services. Clear chains or responsibility have been prescribed and enforced to ensure that strategic weapons cannot be deployed without due authorization. Stringent measures have been enforced to minimize risks of accidental, unintentional or unauthorized launch.
Mr Sattar recalled that the government had established the strategic plans division as secretariat for the country's strategic programme. Under the direct command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces, it developed and devised policies and procedures to ensure custodial security and command and control, and oversee their implementation. Its recommendations are considered and approved by the National Command Authority, which is headed by the president.
He said the armed forces of Pakistan are known for their professionalism, discipline and institutional strength. Any apprehension that the assets might fall into the hands of extremists was entirely imaginary, perhaps a product of distortions caused by TV images magnifying the sights and sounds of protesters.
"Demonstrations signifying compassion for innocent victims of stray bombs have been larger in Pakistan because of deep feelings of sympathy with the Afghan people with whom we share affinities of geography, history and culture. It is illogical to interpret such a natural reaction as danger to the stability of the state or the government," he said.
The minister disclosed that US Secretary of State Colin Powell had offered training for Pakistani experts for security and protection of nuclear assets, which, he said, had been accepted. He explained that Pakistani experts would be apprised of the security measures being applied by the United States.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 02, 2001.