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Pakistan PM Warns Against Arms Race In Asia

"We will like to work with Iran for peace and stability in the region and would welcome Iran's role as a responsible player to this end," Aziz said.
by P. Parameswaran
Washington (AFP) Jan 23, 2006
Surrounded by giants India and China and amid concerns over neighbouring Iran's nuclear ambitions, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz warned Monday against an arms race in the region.

"As a nuclear weapons state, we adhere to the doctrine of minimum credible deterrence and are opposed to any nuclear proliferation as well as an arms race in the region," he told a Washington forum.

Aziz, here for talks with US President George W. Bush and other senior administration officials, said Pakistan had proposed a "strategic restraint regime" to prevent an arms race and ensure that stability was maintained in the region.

He noted that arch rival India's nuclear tests in 1998 forced Pakistan "to respond in order to establish a credible nuclear deterrence.

"Failure to do so could have created a dangerous ambiguity about our capacity and could have led to possible miscalculations," he said, stressing that Pakistan wanted to be an "anchor of peace and stability in the region."

Aziz did not speak of any new threats posed by India or other neighbours but emphasized without elaborating that any induction of anti-ballistic missile systems would have a destabilising impact on the entire region.

The region is bristling with missiles.

India, flush with success of its medium-range ballistic missile, is reportedly developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Pakistan has developed and tested a number of missiles while China, far ahead of others in the missile race in the region, has an arsenal of short and long-range missiles.

On Iran, Aziz said relations with the fellow Islamic nation were "guided by compulsion of geography and history.

"We will like to work with Iran for peace and stability in the region and would welcome Iran's role as a responsible player to this end," he said.

Regarding the Iranian nuclear policy, he said Pakistan had clearly stated its opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation "but we respect Iran's right to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy" under safeguards imposed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.

Aziz said that Russia and China should play a "constructive" role in resolving the current nuclear crisis involving Iran, adding that force should be avoided at all costs.

"We oppose any resort to use of force as this would aggravate the already troubled situation in the region," he said.

Allaying concerns over Pakistan's nuclear capability, the banker-turned-prime-minister said his country was "committed to the prevention of nuclear proliferation."

It "has developed a strong command and control structure to protect our strategic assets as well as effective export controls to ensure against nuclear leakage," he said.

During a visit to Washington last year, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed concern that religious extremists could seize Pakistan's nuclear assets should President Pervez Musharraf be replaced.

Aziz also made a pitch for Pakistan's peaceful use of nuclear energy, as the United States and India are busy negotiating a firm agreement for American transfer of civilian nuclear technology to New Delhi.

Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh signed a landmark deal paving the way for such an agreement.

"We believe that no restrictions should be imposed on the peaceful use of nuclear energy under appropriate safeguards," Aziz said.

"As a fossil fuel deficit country, we need to develop nuclear power generation to meet the growing needs of energy required for our expanding economy. We are prepared to accept all safeguards for our civilian nuclear power sector," he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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EU Sceptical Iran Would Cut Off Oil Supplies
Brussels (AFP) Jan 24, 2006
European Union Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said Tuesday he doubted that Iran would cut oil exports in response to threatened sanctions against it in the row over its nuclear plans.

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