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Central & South Asia
Fears over Pakistan nuclear arms
Leaked US diplomatic cables show concerns that nuclear arsenal may be given to opposition groups.
Last Modified: 01 Dec 2010 02:54 GMT
The US undertakes drone attacks in Pakistan against Taliban and al-Qaeda groups [EPA]

Diplomats working for the US and UK have had concerns that Pakistani nuclear material may be given by a state employee to groups opposing Western governments, according to confidential cables released by the WikiLeaks website.

The cables also show that the diplomats worried that a nuclear armed Pakistan may undertake a grave conflict with neighbouring India, with which it maintains a mutual enmity.

In one cable sent in early 2009, Anne Patterson, the US ambassador to Pakistan, told Washington: "Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in government of Pakistan facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon".

'Deep concerns'

A September 2009 US diplomatic cable stated that in a meeting between US and UK foreign office teams, Mariot Laslie, a senior UK official, said: "The UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons."

The cable added that Leslie had asserted that nuclear proliferation was the biggest danger to other nations, but that it "ranks lower than terrorism on the public's list of perceived threats".

The trove of classified US diplomatic cables that the whistleblower website WikiLeaks began releasing on Sunday, showed the tensions present between Washington and the restive Pakiatan, part of the forefront of the US battle against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The US undertakes unmanned drone attacks in northern Pakistan, where Taliban and al-Qaeda groups launch attacks in the country and against the US military fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan.

A cable from 2008, reporting a US intelligence briefing said: "Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world."

Cables also showed that Russia conveyed its concern to the US over the transfer of nuclear materials in Pakistan.

In February this year, Yuri Korolev, from the Russian foreign ministry, said to US officials: "Islamists are not only seeking power in Pakistan but are also trying to get their hands on nuclear materials."

"There are 120,000-130,000 people directly involved in Pakistan's nuclear and missile programmes.

"There is no way to guarantee that all are 100 per cent loyal and reliable."

The release of the classified documents has infuriated Washington, which called the leak an "attack on the international community".

Source:
Agencies
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