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Pakistan, Indian Say Nukes Safe After Quake

Residents and rescue workers look at what remains of a government girls' school in the town of Gari Habihullah, 10 kms from Balakot, 10 October 2005, two days after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake devastated the region killing some 23,000 people. AFP photo by Syed Azhar Shah.

Islamabad (AFP) Oct 11, 2005
Rivals Pakistan and India said their nuclear warheads and installations were safe after the weekend's devastating earthquake which caused major casualties on both sides.

The South Asian neighbours conducted tit-for-tat atomic tests in 1998 and in 2002 came to the brink of war along their ceasefire line in the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir, the area worst hit by Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake.

"There is no danger to our nuclear installations and weapons from earthquakes," Pakistan military spokesman major general Shaukat Sultan told AFP. "They are fully safe."

Sultan said he was not immediately able to say up to what intensity the Pakistani nuclear facilities could withstand earthquakes and aftershocks.

Indian government officials declined to comment on the status of their atomic bombs but Indian defence experts said no warheads are deployed anywhere near the border with Pakistan.

Separately, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited said they had "not received any reports of any damage to any of our facilities". India's 15 nuclear power plants also withstood a giant quake in Gujarat in January 2001, the corporation's website said.

Up to 40,000 people are thought to have died in Pakistan from the weekend's monster quake, many of them in Pakistani Kashmir, and a further 950 have been confirmed dead in India's sector of the region.

The quake also caused massive structural damage, wiping out whole villages and laying waste to some 75 percent of Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of physics at Islamabad's Quaid-i-Azam University, said the quake posed more danger to nuclear power plants than the nuclear weapons.

Pakistan's main uranium enrichment facility in Kahuta, near Islamabad, is located about 75 kilometres (46 miles) southeast of Kashmir.

"It will not be a military installation, the danger could be at Chashma," Hoodbhoy, also an activist against nuclear weapons, told AFP refering to a Chinese-built facility some 400 kilometres (248 miles) southwest of Islamabad.

"Chashma is in a seismic zone and if an earthquake is centred close to it (the nuclear power plant) there could be loss of radioactive material and a Chernobyl like situation," Hoodbhoy said.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their bloody partition in 1947 but they launched a peace process in January 2004 that renewed cultural, sports and economic links snapped in 2002.

The two countries had poured troops onto their border in 2002 following an attack by suspected Pakistan-backed militants on India's parliament. India blamed Pakistan for the attack, but Islamabad denied the charge.

They have since been involved in peace talks including confidence-building measures to avoid an accidental nuclear war between them.

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US Says Ball In Iran's Court Over Nuclear Talks
Brussels (AFP) Oct 11, 2005
A senior US official said Tuesday that the "ball is in Iran's court" over resuming talks with the European Union suspended in August after Tehran resumed controversial nuclear activities.

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