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Pakistan president says supports no-first-use nuclear policy

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Nov 23, 2008
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said he was in favour of a no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons, a position already held by neighbouring India.

"Most definitely," Zardari said Saturday evening via videolink from his home in Pakistan, when asked whether his country would pledge not to use a nuclear weapon first. "I am against nuclear warfare altogether."

Zardari, who was speaking to a conference organised by an Indian daily newspaper, also said India and Pakistan should work on a region-specific treaty on nuclear use.

"Let's sign a South Asia non-nuclear treaty and I can say this with full confidence -- that I'm sure I can get my parliament to agree upon that. Can you say the same?"

The two neighbours have taken some steps to reduce the risks from their arsenals -- including setting up a telephone hotline aimed at preventing an accidental conflict.

In October 2005, the two agreed to notify one another in advance on ballistic missile tests.

And since 1992 the two nations have been handing over details of their atomic facilities each year as part of an agreement concluded four years earlier to prevent attacks on each other's nuclear installations.

But a bilateral no-first-use agreement would go much further in easing fears of a nuclear war in South Asia.

"I think it's reasonably significant to have a Pakistani president talking about no first use," said security expert Chitrapu Uday Bhaskar, of the New Delhi think-tank the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

"But we need to wait for the Pakistan government to refine their thoughts and bring it onto the table in a more formal way."

The Indian government has not responded to Zardari's comments on nuclear weapons and a source at the Ministry of External Affairs said Sunday there were no immediate plans to do so.

The statement comes almost five years into a slow-moving peace process which India has recently said is "under stress."

The process was launched by India and Pakistan in January 2004 after they came close to war two years earlier over the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir.

Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India have fought three wars since independence from Britain 61 years ago and conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998.

Pakistan's president also pledged to work towards better relations with India and said he hoped to see trade ties increase.

"I am one who has always looked at the opportunities," said Zardari.

"I would say 'please let's open each other's borders and trade so I can trade with you and you can trade with me. If you can trade with China why not trade with Pakistan?'"

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Use of nuclear weapons more likely in future: US intelligence
Washington (AFP) Nov 20, 2008
The use of nuclear weapons will grow increasingly likely by 2025, US intelligence warned Thursday in a report on global trends that forecasts a tense, unstable world shadowed by war.

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