Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal are safe: Zardari

May 6th, 2009 - 7:31 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 6 (DPA) Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has proclaimed that the country’s stockpile of nuclear arms are safe from Islamist insurgents operating in remote areas of the country.
Zardari said the weapons are under the complete control of the military and his chain of command, and the international community should not be worried they will fall into the wrong hands.

“They are in safe hands,” Zardari said on CNN a day before he is to meet with President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The three leaders will meet Wednesday to explore ways to cooperate against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which operates in the border region and has brought increased instability to both countries.

Obama has identified the conflict as his top national security concern and has intensified US and allied efforts to defeat the extremists. But the Obama administration has been frustrated by the slow Pakistani response to the threat posed by the Taliban and its ability to operate in safe havens, where it threatens not only Islamabad but also Afghanistan.

“It concerns me greatly and we need to put the most heavy possible pressure on our friends in Pakistan to join us in the fight against the Taliban and its allies,” the US envoy for the conflict, Richard Holbrooke, said Tuesday.

“We cannot succeed in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support and involvement,” Holbrooke told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The possibility of Pakistan falling into deeper instability and the possibility of an extremist takeover and acquiring of the nuclear weapons has been of increased concern in Washington, although the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, told reporters Monday he was “comfortable” the arsenal was safe.

Karzai also expressed frustration that quick action was not taken to prevent the Taliban from seeking refuge in Pakistan after a US-led coalition ousted it from power in 2001.

“The return of the Taliban is because we did not address the question of sanctuaries in time,” Karzai said at the Brookings Institute Tuesday. “Unfortunately, today, Pakistan is suffering with us massively in the constructs of that.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is looking to increase aid to Pakistan to assist its economic development as well as fend off the extremists. Congress is considering a request to boost aid by $1.5 billion over the next seven years.

Zardari said more aid is critical to the fight against extremism.

“I am thankful for the support that I got and thankful to the people of America to give their tax dollars to us and - but I need more support,” he said.

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