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World - Africa

U.S. on South Asia arms race: 'Cool it'

5 foreign ministers want to ease India-Pakistan nuclear tension

June 3, 1998
Web posted at: 1:15 p.m. EDT (1715 GMT)
Madeleine Albright

In this story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the eve of a meeting aimed at averting a nuclear arms race in South Asia, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Wednesday urged India and Pakistan to "cool it" by stopping test explosions and working out their political differences diplomatically. icon 2Mb/24 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"Both Indians and Pakistanis are far less secure today than they were three weeks ago," Albright said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden with President Clinton. icon 357K/30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Bill Clinton

Albright was leaving Wednesday for Geneva, where the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council will try to find a joint approach to easing tensions following recent underground nuclear tests by the neighboring countries who have fought three wars since 1947.

The meeting, which will include Albright's counterparts from China, Russia, Britain and France, was set to be held on Thursday. All five nations possess nuclear weapons.

The test detonations by India and Pakistan were "self-defeating, wasteful and dangerous," Clinton said. icon 306K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Goals for Geneva

Albright said the goals for the Geneva meeting were to convince India and Pakistan to:

  • Stop further nuclear testing and missile deployment.

  • End "inflammatory rhetoric" and "provocative military activity."

  • "Re-examine options for easing underlying political problems."

  • Sign the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

"The most important thing both sides can do is to cool it, take a deep breath and climb out of the hole they have dug themselves into," Albright said.

Number of tests 'less than they said'

Albright did not indicate what incentives or deterrents might be considered at the Geneva meeting but one of her top deputies told a Senate hearing the United States would not seek to persuade the other major nuclear powers to impose sanctions, viewing that as unproductive.

Instead, said Karl Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs, the United States would seek common ground.

Remarks from President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright on Wednesday
icon 11 min. VXtreme video

Inderfurth also told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that both India and Pakistan may have overstated the number of nuclear tests they conducted and the variety of devices they tested.

India has claimed five tests, Pakistan six. But Inderfurth said the two nations likely exploded "less than they said" and that the precise number was still being determined by scrutinizing seismic and other data.

Review faults U.S. intelligence

In a related development, a review panel concluded Tuesday that U.S. intelligence failed to warn of India's nuclear weapons tests because of leadership lapses, poor on-the-ground intelligence and failure to pay attention to spy satellite pictures that offered valuable clues.

But the wide-ranging critique of the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies stopped short of recommending that anyone be fired or punished.

The independent review panel, headed by retired Adm. David Jeremiah, noted that no one was killed because of the lapses and concluded that U.S. policy-makers, had they been warned, probably would not have been able to dissuade India from conducting the tests.

The panel's 26-page report found fault with top CIA leadership, including Director George Tenet, with the compartmentalized organization of U.S. intelligence, and with imagery specialists who left photographic evidence of India's plans "on the cutting room floor."

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