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Pak Nuclear-weapons a strategic concern: Mullen

By Lalit K Jha in Washington D.C
May 04, 2009 23:12 IST
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Amid growing global concerns over Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling in the hands of the Taliban, the top United States military official on Monday said it remains a "strategic concern" but the atomic arsenal of Islamabad are secure as of now.

Acknowledging that the possibility of Taliban gaining access to nuclear weapons is a "strategic concern" for the US, Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said he is comfortable that Pakistan's military leadership is capable of dealing with that particular issue right now.

"I don't think that's going to happen. I don't see that in any way imminent whatsoever at this particular point in time. But it is a strategic concern that we all share," Mullen said.

"Pakistani leadership and in particular the military is very focused on nuclear weapons," he said, adding, "I remain comfortable that the nuclear weapons in Pakistan are secure."

As the US has invested about $ 100 million in helping Pakistan secure nuclear weapons, Mullen said, "I'm comfortable, because I know what we've done, over the last three years specifically, to both invest, assist, and I've watched them improve their security fairly dramatically for the last three years."

"I'm also comfortable that the Pakistani military understands the threat and specifically the downside of these weapons being taken, by the Taliban and terrorists, not only internally for their security, but what could happen from a proliferation standpoint," Mullen, who recently returned from Pakistan, said.

"This is a sovereignty issue. I understand that. But looking at this very hard, again, I'm comfortable with where we are right now, and I wouldn't -- with where the Pakistani military is and where security is. And I wouldn't want parse the word any more specifically than that," he said.

In the last few days, the US media has been publishing reports that the Obama administration is showing signs of uneasiness about the possibilities of the nuclear weapons getting into the hands of the Taliban in case they continue to gain grounds in and around Islamabad.

Media reports have also said that Pakistan is not sharing details of its nuclear weapons, which the Obama administration is again likely to push for it when the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari arrives in Washington.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington D.C
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