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Pakistan Detonates Nuclear Bombs

May 28, 1998

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Risking an arms race with rival India, Pakistan exploded two nuclear devices today in a remote western region, two weeks after the New Delhi government undertook its own nuclear tests.

U.S. intelligence officials concluded Tuesday that Pakistan completed most of the preparations for a test in the western Chagai Hills, about 30 miles from the border with Iran. The level of preparation suggests that the Pakistanis ``do indeed plan to conduct a test,″ said one U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

India’s tests caught U.S. intelligence by surprise, and both Ayub and Sharif have been critical of the ``lackluster″ response of the Western world to them.

While Pakistanis were divided over whether Pakistan should detonate a device, most favored doing so and many believed it would happen within days.

A Gallup Pakistan survey released Wednesday said 70 percent of Pakistanis favored a nuclear test, 51 percent of whom wanted it immediately.

Of the 1,000 people who participated in Monday’s survey, 30 percent urged restraint now. Even more _ 48 percent _ urged restraint only if international lenders, including the United States, wrote off Pakistan’s loans. The survey’s margin of error is 3 percentage points.

The topic dominated headlines in Pakistan. In the drawing rooms of Pakistan’s elite and in the teahouses frequented by the poor, the question has been the same: Will Pakistan explode a device of its own?

On street corners, newsboys weave their way through traffic, waving their Urdu-language papers, the headlines blaring the same question. There have been sporadic anti-Indian demonstrations, where crowds burned effigies of the Indian prime minister.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the subcontinent gained independence from Britain in 1947 _ in 1948, 1965 and again in 1971.

Australia offered Wednesday to double its aid to Pakistan next year if Pakistan refrained from carrying out a nuclear test _ from $1.6 million to $3.1 million.

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