Zardari flies to US amid fears over Pakistan nuclear weapons

May 5th, 2009 - 9:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon Brown By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 5 (IANS) Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari left the British capital for a summit in the US Tuesday amid mounting fears over the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear bombs.

Zardari, who was camping in London for two days ahead of the Washington meeting, did not meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown or any British leader, British sources said.

However, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was also in London, was met by his British opposite number David Miliband at a central London hotel where he was staying.

Zardari left for his first meeting with US President Barack Obama accompanied by his Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt.Gen. Shuja Pasha and chief of military operations Maj. Gen. Javid Iqbal.

The trilateral regional security talks will also be attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The visit comes amid continuing fears about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

US national security adviser Gen. James Jones told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that although he had been told by Pakistan’s Army that the country’s nuclear stockpile was safe, Washington needed further guarantees.

“We have received many assurances from the military that this is something they have under control but this is very much an ongoing topic,” he said.

“The world would like to know that on this question, that there’s absolute security and transparency.”

The Daily Telegraph said, “What is causing the greatest anxiety is the army’s ability to guarantee the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal.”

It said a “secret, American-financed programme to help Pakistan create greater security for its nuclear weaponry appears to have run into the sand, with Washington kept in the dark about how the money was spent.”

“It leaves the US relying on assurances from General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff, and General Khalid Kidwai, the head of nuclear security, that the warheads - of which there may be as many as 100 - are in safe hands.”

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