US does not know location of all Pakistan nukes

May 19th, 2009 - 11:14 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 19 (IANS) A top US official added fuel to the row over reports that Pakistan may be using US military assistance to expand its nuclear arsenal by saying Washington does not know the location of all of Pakistan’s atomic weapons.

Days after the top US military officer told Congress that there is evidence that Pakistan is adding to its nuclear weapons systems and warheads, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Leon Panetta said Monday the US does not know the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

But both Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose remarks during a Congressional hearing had set off the row expressed confidence that there are “pretty secure” measures to keep them out of terrorists’ hands.

“Obviously, we do try to understand where all of these are located,” Panetta said. “We don’t have, frankly, the intelligence to know where they all are located.”

He was responding to a question if nuclear weapons in Pakistan are more safely guarded than those in the former Soviet Union at a forum organised by the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles.

He added that the US is confident that Pakistani government has a “pretty secure approach to try to protect these weapons.”

“It is something that we continue to watch,” the director said. “The last thing we want is to have the Taliban have access to nuclear weapons in Pakistan.”

At a congressional hearing last week, Mullen was asked whether there was evidence that Pakistan was adding to its nuclear arsenal. He replied: “Yes.”

Mullen’s remarks as also confidential briefings about Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal had raised questions on Capitol Hill about whether billions of dollars in proposed military aid might be diverted to Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the New York Times reported Monday.

However, Mullen Monday sought to play down such concerns. “I am not aware of any US aid that has gone toward nuclear weapons, save that which is very focused in the last several years, last three or four years, on improving their security. Which is exactly what we’d like and they’ve done that,” Mullen told a gathering at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly too sought to play down the New York Times report Monday saying the issues of helping Pakistan to meet the extremist threat from within and the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear capability should not be linked.

“I’m not going to address the issue of whether or not the Pakistanis are increasing their nuclear capability. I think Admiral Mullen addressed that,” he said.

But the reason “we shouldn’t connect these dots, that we shouldn’t make this connection, is because this assistance package is for very specific purposes,” Kelly said. And the US is going “to make sure that the money is spent for the specific purposes that the US Congress had in mind.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in South Asia |