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Pakistan: No Hurry To Sign Nuke Ban

January 4, 2000

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistan’s army-led government is not in a rush to sign the global nuclear test ban treaty, the foreign minister said Tuesday.

``The government is in no hurry to make a decision, let alone sign the treaty,″ Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said. ``The final decision will not be made unless an informed consensus emerges as to what will best serve the interest of our country.″

Sattar made his comments at a seminar sponsored by the Institute of Policy Studies, a government-funded think tank. The seminar was to examine the implications of signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Pakistan, one of the world’s newest nuclear power, conducted a series of underground nuclear explosions in May 1998 to match similar tests conducted earlier by its neighbor and rival, India. Since then, both countries have been under tremendous international pressure to sign the treaty.

But there is strong opposition to the treaty in Pakistan, particularly from the right-wing religious parties. They say the treaty will compromise Pakistan’s national interests and weaken its defense against neighboring India. Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the South Asian subcontinent gained its independence from Britain in 1947.

Since the military government took over in October, it has said it wants to build a consensus in Pakistan before signing the treaty. The government has said previously that it is not in any hurry to sign, and that its decision will not be linked to whether India is ready to sign.

Meanwhile, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the scientific adviser to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said Tuesday said India now has the technical know-how to start its intercontinental ballistic missile program if funds became available to begin the project.

Currently, India has in its arsenal the Agni, an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a maximum range of 1,500 miles. Intercontinental ballistic missiles can have a range of more than 3,000 miles.

Kalam also said India would test its indigenously manufactured Light Combat Aircraft by the end of the month.

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