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Pakistan Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Cruise Missile

The terrain-hugging Hatf VII Babur missile.
by Masroor Gilani
Islamabad (AFP) Mar 22, 2006
Pakistan on Tuesday successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable cruise missile for the second time, without informing rival India, officials said. The terrain-hugging Hatf VII Babur missile has a range of 500 kilometres (310 miles) and can carry all kinds of warheads, a senior military official told AFP.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf witnessed the launch and congratulated the scientists involved, a military statement said.

"The strategic programme, which had come to symbolize the nation's resolve for its security, will continue to go from strength to strength with credible minimum deterrence as the cornerstone," it quoted Musharraf as saying.

The statement added that "all phases of the planned trajectory were extremely successful and the missile impacted with pinpoint accuracy."

Pakistan first tested the indigenously developed Babur -- named after an ancient Mughal emperor -- in August 2005 and described it as a "milestone" in the country's history.

The Babur could in future also be placed in submarines and on ships, the military statement said.

The foreign office said it did not inform its nuclear-armed rival India about the latest launch. There was no immediate reaction from New Delhi.

Both countries, who conducted tit-for-tat test nuclear detonations in 1998 and have fought three wars, routinely carry out tests of nuclear-capable missiles.

"We don't have to inform them as we have an agreement which includes only ballistic missile tests, about which the two countries inform each other," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam.

"We have proposed to India to include cruise missile tests but they did not agree," she said.

Pakistan again proposed to India that cruise missile tests should be included when the countries' foreign secretaries met in New Delhi in January this year, she said.

India unveiled its first cruise missile, a supersonic joint venture with Russia named the Brahmos, in 2001.

A Pakistani peace group Tuesday said it opposed missile tests by both countries, adding that the arms race in South Asia had impoverished people.

"Both countries should stop the arms race and divert funds towards the development of their people, particularly those living in abject poverty," Kamran Islam of the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy told AFP.

But Pakistan's information minister Sheikh Rashid said that the latest missile test did not mean that there was an arms race going on with India.

"Pakistan has its own defence needs and the missile test has nothing to do with any arms race," Rashid told AFP. "We will further develop and test our missile system and may also increase the Babur's range."

Pakistan is at the centre of investigations into a nuclear black market run by its disgraced atomic scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who confessed in 2004 to passing atomic secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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