US secretly aids Pakistan in guarding nuke arms: NYT

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Washington, Nov 17 (UNI) Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost 100 million dollars on a highly classified program to help Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf, secure his country's nuclear weapons, reports New York times quoting current and former senior administration officials.

But with the future of that country's leadership in doubt, the daily points out, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan's reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effective ness of the continuing security effort.

It says the aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.

The Times says a raft of equipment 'from helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment' was given to Pakistan to help secure its nuclear material, its warheads, and the laboratories that were the site of the worst known case of nuclear proliferation in the atomic age.

While American officials say that they believe the arsenal is safe at the moment, and that they take at face value Pakistani assurances that security is vastly improved, it points out, in many cases the Pakistani government has been reluctant to show American officials how or where the gear is actually used.

That is because the Pakistanis do not want to reveal the locations of their weapons or the amount or type of new bomb-grade fuel the country is now producing, it says.

The American program was created after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when the Bush administration debated whether to share with Pakistan one of the crown jewels of American nuclear protection technology, known as 'permissive action links'or PALS, a system used to keep a weapon from detonating without proper codes and authorisations.

In the end, despite past federal aid to France and Russia on delicate points of nuclear security, the administration decided that it could not share the system with the Pakistanis because of legal restrictions.


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