Tuesday, November 30, 2010
WikiLeaks Opens More Secrets About Pakistan
WikiLeaks diplomatic cables have revealed that the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi had described President Asif Ali Zardari as ‘dirty’ but ‘not dangerous’ and Nawaz Sharif as ‘dangerous’ but ‘not dirty’.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office Monday condemned the "irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents" and denied that the reactor produces highly enriched uranium, but said the US suggestion to have fuel transferred was "plainly refused".
"Pakistan is an advanced nuclear technology state. No one can touch Pakistan's nuclear facilities and assets," said the foreign ministry.
"Reports concerning Pakistan's experimental nuclear reactor acknowledge that Pakistan did not allow any transfer of the fuel from the experimental reactor."
The ministry said the reactor was installed in the mid-1960s with support from the United States, which also initially provided the fuel.
"The suggestion that the reactor is producing HEU (highly enriched uranium) is completely incorrect," it said.
Pakistan also rejected scathing comments attributed to King Abdullah calling President Asif Ali Zardari the greatest obstacle to progress in Pakistan.
"When the head is rotten it affects the whole body," King Abdullah was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
President Zardari’s spokesman on Monday dismissed the reported insult from one of Pakistan's closest allies, saying Zardari considers King Abdullah "his elder brother". "The so-called leaks are no more than an attempt to create misperceptions between two important and brotherly Muslim countries," said Farhatullah Babar.
The country's nuclear arsenal is one of the most sensitive topics for the United States as it tries to improve relations with the conservative Muslim nation on the front line in the campaign against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Parts of Pakistan's northwest is gripped by a homegrown Taliban insurgency. Its semi-autonomous wild border area with Afghanistan is subject to a covert US drone war targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders.
Islamist militants embarked on a nationwide bombing campaign in 2007, the same year that the Times said the US began attempts to safeguard Pakistan's enriched uranium. A quarter of a million confidential American diplomatic cables are being released by whistleblower WikiLeaks from Monday.
The New York Times, Britain's the Guardian, Germany's Der Spiegel, France's Le Monde and Spain's El Pais has published a first batch of the documents.
The Times quoted then US ambassador Anne Patterson as saying in May 2009 that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts.
A Pakistani official, who declined to be named, said: "If the local media got word of the fuel removal, they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons".
Islamabad has been adamant that its nuclear weapons are in safe hands and US President Barack Obama has publicly agreed.
Pakistan announced that it had nuclear weapons in 1998, scrambling to secure the technology after India's first nuclear test in 1974. Experts now estimate that Pakistan has up to 100 nuclear weapons.
The United States has longstanding concerns about proliferation from Pakistan and is reported to have set up an elite squad that could fly into the country and attempt to secure its weapons should the government disintegrate.
In 2004, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's bomb, confessed to running a nuclear black market that sent secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea. He was put under house arrest for five years.
Although he retracted his remarks, US officials say he is still a risk. Pakistan also opposes a proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would limit access to highly enriched uranium and plutonium used to make weapons.