US in secret talks to secure Pakistan’s nuclear materials: Report

May 5th, 2009 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Arun Kumar
Washington, May 5 (IANS) United States and Pakistani officials have begun behind-the-scenes talks aimed at achieving a greater US role in securing Pakistan’s nuclear materials, according to a US media report.

This includes a proposal to ship some highly enriched uranium to the US for disposal, the Boston Globe reported Tuesday citing two unnamed “administration officials with direct knowledge of the discussions”.

The daily said if successful, the talks between non-proliferation specialists at the State and Energy departments and their Pakistani counterparts would mark a breakthrough in efforts to persuade Pakistan to accept greater assistance in preventing terrorists from obtaining nuclear fuel or the technology to build a nuclear weapon.

“The Pakistanis take this very seriously,” a senior US official involved in the talks cited by the Globe said. “Pakistan faces some unique challenges.”

Pakistan, which is believed to have as many as 100 nuclear bombs, has been highly secretive about its nuclear activities for fear that the US might try to destroy its arsenal or that its archenemy, nuclear-armed India, might launch a first strike, the Globe suggested.

But the growing threat to the Pakistani government from the Taliban - and its allies in the Al Qaeda terrorist network - has given Pakistani leaders a new reason to cooperate with the US, the officials cited by the daily said.

The US now provides some basic assistance to Pakistan in nuclear security. Measures include training Pakistani officials on export control and providing detection equipment for its seaports, airports, and border crossings to help thwart nuclear smuggling.

However, the new measures under consideration would for the first time give the US access to some of Pakistan’s nuclear ingredients, though not the actual weapons, which are reportedly stored unassembled under the control of a 10,000-member security force headed by a two-star general.

Two of the key proposals under discussion are a joint programme to secure or destroy radioactive materials that could be used to make a crude nuclear device, and shipment to the US of some of the highly enriched uranium fuel used in Pakistani civilian power plants.

The enriched fuel is believed to be sought by terrorists as possible material for a weapon of mass destruction, the officials cited by the daily said.

The Globe said Pakistan’s embassy did not respond to several requests for comment.

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