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Obama confident that Pakistan's nukes are secure

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
June 20, 2009 13:08 IST
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US President Barack Obama exuded confidence that the nuclear weapons of Pakistan are safe and secure, about which a lot of concerns have been expressed in the recent past. "I have confidence that the Pakistani government has safeguarded its nuclear arsenal. It is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal," Obama told the Dawn television of Pakistan in an interview.

"I won't engage in hypotheticals like that," Obama said when asked: "Do you actually see the possibility that one day the Taliban may take over those weapons? And if you see that happening, would you actually try to seize those weapons before the Taliban?" However, Obama said he is concerned about growing extremism in the region. "What I do have concerns about is making sure that the Taliban and other extremist organizations aren't taking root in South Asia, in Afghanistan, in the Middle East," he said.

The US president underlined the need for global cooperation to see that the "cancer" of terrorism does nottake root. "We want to partner with everybody to make sure that this cancer does not grow. One of the things that I said in my speech in Cairo is that Islam has an extraordinary tradition of tolerance and peaceful coexistence and that tradition is being distorted and being warped," Obama said.

The President hoped that the United States will not have to send more troops to Afghanistan as the local government can ensure the country does not become a safe havenfor terrorists. "Now, the United States, we do not want to be in a position where we're having to send troops to Afghanistan, for example. We would love the Afghan government to be secure and stable so that it can ensure that it does not become a safe haven for organizations like al Qaeda," he said. "We would much prefer being a partner with countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan, and simply work together on issues of common interest like commerce and increasing trade and improving development in all countries," Obama said.

He underlined Washington's determination to stand up against those who distorted religion and were trying to wreakhavoc worldwide. "But it's very difficult to do that if you have people who have distorted a great religion and are now trying to wreak havoc not only in the West but most often directed against fellow Muslims in places like Pakistan. And that is something that we will always stand against," Obama said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington