Musharraf: Pakistan's nuclear weapons are secure
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan won't be destabilized by its support for possible U.S. military action against Afghanistan and its nuclear weapons are secure, its leader said Sunday.
Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has agreed to share intelligence with the U.S. military, allow U.S. aircraft to cross Pakistani airspace and provide logistical support for a possible American strike, but he told CNN he would not send Pakistani troops into Afghanistan.
Musharraf said opposition to his cooperation with the United States was limited to a "very small minority."
"These are generally, if not all, religious extremists and they do not form the majority of Pakistan," Musharraf said in an exclusive interview with CNN. "There is no destabilization within. There is no opposition, no mass opposition, to me and my government."
Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999, a year after Pakistan and regional rival India each tested nuclear weapons. Asked if new unrest could lead to Pakistan losing control of its nuclear arsenal, Musharraf said, "I don't see this scenario ever appearing."
"I am very, very sure that the command and control center that we have developed for ourselves is very, very secure. It's extremely secure, and there is no chance of these assets falling into the hands of extremists," he said.
The United States has demanded that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban hand over suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, whom Washington blames for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Taliban have refused.
Pakistan's intelligence services and military have supported the Taliban, the fundamentalist Muslim militia that seized power in Kabul in 1996. Musharraf has said Pakistan has supported the Taliban "because of our national interests," but said that "because of the coalition forming against them, certainly, there's a danger of damage coming to them."
The movement grew out of Islamic schools in northwest Pakistan. Musharraf said he was prepared to clamp down on any of those schools, known as madrassas, that preached extremist views.
"Any madrassa that is preaching terror or militancy, certainly we would like to move against it," Musharraf said. But he added, "One shouldn't think that all madrassas in Pakistan are under the influence of religious extremists."
Pakistan is the only country that still recognizes the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government, and "diplomatically, we suffered internationally because of our support for them." He said Pakistan will continue to maintain those ties in hopes of persuading the Taliban to change its mind.
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