US watchful of Pakistan’s assurances on A. Q. Khan

February 11th, 2009 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

TalibanPakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi gave the assurances to US Deputy Secretary James Steinberg during a meeting last week in Munich, Robert Wood, State Department Spokesman told reporters Tuesday.

Steinberg had “expressed very clearly and straightforwardly our concern” about a Pakistani court’s decision to release Khan, considered the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, and also sought assurances that the Pakistani government “would take every step available” to ensure that Khan did not pose a proliferation risk.

“And so the Pakistanis clearly understand where we’re coming from on this issue. They are obviously sensitive to our concerns. And we’ll just have to see how it goes from here,” Wood said adding, “They’ve assured us that they’re going to take steps to make sure that he is not a proliferation risk.”

Asked if the US was ready to accept Islamabad’s assurances, he said: “We have to take them at their word. But of course, you know, we’ll have to see what comes out; see how things play out with regard to these assurances.

But Wood could not say whether the issue of Khan’s release came up during US special representative Richard Holbrooke’s meetings with Pakistani leaders including President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. He also met Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha.

The envoy arrived in Islamabad Monday on the first leg of his trip that would also take him to Afghanistan and India.

Asked to comment on reports that Pakistani officials had urged Holbrooke to talk to the moderate Taliban, Wood said: “I haven’t heard that at all, not at all. I don’t believe that to be the case at all.”

“It’s been very clear, up until now, that we are not talking to the Taliban,” he added but did not completely rule out the possibility saying, “there is a review under way with regard to our overall policy and strategy toward Afghanistan.”

“But I can tell you at this point that we are not talking to the Taliban. I can’t tell you how the review is going to end up. But what I can speak to is what our policy is right now with regard to the Taliban.”

Wood said he was also not aware that Holbrooke has any plans to meet with Iranian officials regarding Afghanistan situation.

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