Prime Minister Says Pakistan Does Not Have Nuclear Weapons
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan said Wednesday that her country does not have nuclear weapons, will not build them and will not ″provoke a nuclear arms race″ on the subcontinent it shares with rival India.
In an address to Congress, Ms. Bhutto also urged the United States to continue military and economic aid to Pakistan and to keep resisting efforts by the Soviet Union to exercise influence over Afghanistan.
Her appearance came after National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft told reporters the United States will sell Pakistan 60 additional F-16 jet fighters, for a total force of 100 of the sophisticated warplanes.
Applause repeatedly punctuated the prime minister’s address and it was loudest and most prolonged when she said her nation does not intend to become a nuclear-weapons power and will work with the United States to ″prevent the catastrophe of a nuclear arms race in south Asia.″
The United States has long expressed concern that Pakistan is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons. Ms. Bhutto said her nation will not go down that path.
″Speaking for Pakistan, I can declare that we do not possess nor do we intend to make a nuclear device; that is our policy,″ she said.
″We are committed to a regional approach to the nuclear problem and we remain ready to accept any safeguards, inspection and verification that are applied on a non-discriminatory regional basis,″ she said.
Ms. Bhutto said Pakistan has long advocated creating a nuclear weapons-free zone in south Asia and added: ″A first step in that direction could be a nuclear test-ban agreement between Pakistan and its neighbors. ... We are prepared for any negotiation to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in our region.
″We will not provoke a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent,″ she said.
The prime minister mentioned no other country by name. But Pakistan’s regional rival, India, which detonated a nuclear device some 15 years ago, has resisted agreeing to test-ban and nuclear weapons-free zones unless such arrangements also include China, a nuclear-weapons state.
On Afghanistan, Ms. Bhutto said her country and the United States must not abandon their long struggle to end Soviet influence.
″Pakistan and the United States have traveled a long road with Afghanistan in its quest for self-determination,″ she said. ″Let us not out of impatience or fatigue″ abandon the course, she added.
She called for a political settlement resulting in a broad-based democratic government in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, which has given refuge to 3.6 million Afghan refugees, and the United States have cooperated for years in the effort to support the Afghan rebels seeking to topple Kabul’s Marxist government.
In Thursday editions, The New York Times quoted unidentified Pakistani officials as saying Ms. Bhutto had urged the United States to try to persuade the Soviet Union to accept the departure of Afghan President Najib from office, with whom the guerrillas have refused to negotiate, as a step that could lead to negotiations.
In her speech, Ms. Bhutto traced her resistance to the military dictatorship which forced her father, Prime Minister Ali Bhutto, from office and which executed him for an alleged political murder.
She said her election as prime minister is a part of a worldwide movement toward democracy that means that ″the day of the dictator is over.″
Democracy has returned to Pakistan and must be nourished, she said.
″This is the time in Pakistan when democracy’s friends must come forward,″ she said. ″We need the time and the resources to build a truly strong constitutional government. If we succeed, all democracies share in that success.″
She said the United States and Pakistan are on the threshold of a new democratic partnership which will address her country’s security concerns and social and economic needs.
″The time is right, my friends, to make miracles in Pakistan,″ she said. ″The dictatorship of the past has given way to the forces of the future. The years of social and economic neglect beg for redress.″
″The people of Pakistan appreciate the assistance you have given us, the assistance which you continue to give us,″ she said. ″Your military assistance has helped maintain a relative balance in the region. It has contributed to Pakistan’s sense of security.″
On Tuesday, she conferred with President Bush, then was guest of honor at a White House state dinner.
After a luncheon at the State Department, Ms. Bhutto and Secretary of State James A. Baker III witnessed the signing of agreements providing for $465 million to help Pakistan finance housing, narcotics and education programs.
The agreements are part of a $2.28 billion, six-year aid package deigned to support Pakistan’s economic development, according to the Agency for International Development. Pakistan is the third largest recipient of U.S. aid.
Ms. Bhutto also conferred for 90 minutes at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Aides who asked not to be named described the session primarily as a get-acquainted meeting for Cheney.
The sources said the two briefly discussed the F-16 deal and that Ms. Bhutto extended a personal invitation to Cheney to visit her country.