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Nukes are 'secure', says premier after test-fire of two ballistic missiles

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-05-08

Pakistan's military said Saturday it had successfully test-fired two missiles capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads, in a bid to boost the country's defence capabilities.

REUTERS - Pakistan reiterated a call on Saturday for the international community to recognise it as a nuclear power, saying it had addressed the world's concerns over the safety and security of its nuclear weapons.

Pakistan is a crucial ally in the U.S.-led fight against al Qaeda and Taliban and President Barack Obama last month expressed confidence over the security of Pakistan's nuclear programmes.

However, militant attacks across the country, even on supposedly secure military installations, have raised fears that militants could penetrate nuclear facilities.

But Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said he had "laid to rest" all concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear programme at a summit hosted by Obama in Washington last month, and the world had "expressed satisfaction" over Pakistan's nuclear security arrangements.

"There is now a need for the world to move on beyond safety and security concerns," Gilani said while addressing military officials at the test-firing of two short-range, nuclear-capable missiles.

"It is time for the world to recognise Pakistan as a de jure nuclear power with equal rights and responsibilities," the military quoted him as saying in a statement.

Gilani and senior military officials watched the test-firing of the Ghaznavi ballistic missile, which can travel up to 300 km (185 miles), and the Shaheen-I, with a range of 650 km (400 miles).

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since their independence from British rule in 1947. They regularly carry out missile tests and the latest Pakistani tests were not expected to increase tension between them.


Gilani also reiterated a Pakistani offer made at the Washington summit to provide nuclear fuel cycle services, under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, to the world.

Pakistan's nuclear programme has been under intense international scrutiny since its inception in the 1970s.

In 2004, top Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted to selling Iran, North Korea and Libya nuclear enrichment technology that can be used to produce fuel for civilian reactors or atomic weapons.

Pakistan denied the government knew anything about Khan's activities though Western diplomats and intelligence officials say they believe some members of Pakistan's government and military were aware of his nuclear network.

Gilani, whose government is struggling with a chronic energy crisis and acute power shortages, also reiterated a call for the provision of civilian nuclear technology by the international community.

"Energy is a vital economic security need of Pakistan and nuclear energy is a clean way forward," he said.

Pakistan has long been asking for a civilian nuclear deal with the United States, similar to one the United States has with India.

But the United States is reluctant to strike such a deal with Pakistan mainly because of Khan's proliferation activities.

Pakistan first carried out nuclear tests in May 1998, days after similar tests by India.

Like India, Pakistan has not signed the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pakistan has about 80 atomic bombs and fissile material for up to 150 more, international experts say.

Date created : 2010-05-08


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