Fanatics can never take over Pakistan: Musharraf

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Islamabad, Jan 15 (UNI) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has ruled out the possibility of fanatics taking over the country.

''One thing is for sure; The fanatics can never take over Pakistan. This is not possible,'' he said in an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, when asked about al-Qaeda wanting to topple his government and taking over country's nuclear weapons.

Mr Musharraf held al-Qaeda responsible for carrying out terrorist activities in the country's tribal areas and masterminding suicide bombings, but rejected it was strong enough both militarily and politically to get an overall command.

''They are neither militarily so strong that they can defeat our army, with its 6,00,000 soldiers, nor politically and they do not stand a chance of winning elections. They are much too weak for that,'' he said.

Terming ''totally misplaced'' remarks by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei, who had expressed concerns that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of extremists, he said after becoming army chief in 1999, he introduced a custodial control under 'Army Strategic Force Command', which was organized like a military corps to keep the nuclear assets safe.

''Everything is accounted for. Terrorists could not even take out a bolt from a rifle,'' he added.

The President also ruled out the possibility of armymen or people in ISI sympathising with religious fanatics that could infiltrate nuclear system.

''The ISI does not handle any nuclear issue at all. They have nothing to do with it,'' he quipped.

About covert operations by the US in Pakistan's tribal belt, Mr Musharraf said, ''I would never allow American forces to operate on Pakistan's soil. If we need support, we ask for it. It is we who are operating, nobody else.'' UNI XC SKB RN1941

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