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Pakistan rejects nuke weapon fears

  • Story Highlights
  • Pakistan rejects fears its nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremists
  • Mohamed ElBaradei, U.N. nuclear watchdog chief, voiced his worries Tuesday
  • ElBaradei: I fear chaos in this state, which has 30 or 40 nuclear weapons
  • Pakistan: Our nuclear weapons as secure as those held by other nuclear states
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's foreign ministry Wednesday rejected concerns raised by the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief that the country's nuclear weapons "could fall into the hands of an extremist group in Pakistan or in Afghanistan."

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Mohamed ElBaradei, the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief. fears for Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Mohamed ElBaradei's comments to Al-Hayat newspaper were "irresponsible" and "unwarranted," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said at a news briefing on Wednesday.

"Pakistan rejects the statement by Dr. ElBaradei, Director General IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), hinting at the possibility of its nuclear weapons falling into the hands of extremists," according to a ministry statement.

"As head of the IAEA, which is a U.N. body, he has to be careful about his statements which ought to remain within the parameters of his mandate.

"His remarks also ignore the fact that the strategic assets of Pakistan are fully secure and under multilayered safeguards and controls exercised by the National Command Authority."

In an interview published in Al-Hayat Tuesday, ElBaradei said that Pakistan's recent political instability makes it more sensitive to susceptible to problems in other Muslim countries.

"The effects of any new war in the Middle East and the Islamic world could have repercussions, not only in Iran, but what I fear most is the effect in Pakistan, a nation with many internal problems," ElBaradei said.

"I fear a system of chaos or extremist regime in this state, which has 30 or 40 nuclear weapons."

Pakistan has been in a state of political upheaval since the country's opposition challenged President Pervez Musharraf's tight grip on power, pushing him to step down as military chief and lift the emergency rule he had imposed in early November.

The country further spiraled into chaos after the December 27 assassination of leading opposition figure and former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

In response to the IAEA director-general's comments, Pakistan's foreign ministry stressed in its statement that ElBaradei, "on several occasions, has been briefed about the structure and control mechanisms put in place to ensure complete safety of our nuclear assets."

"Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapon state. Our nuclear weapons are as secure as that of any other nuclear weapon state. We, therefore, believe statements expressing concern about their safety and security are unwarranted and irresponsible.

"Pakistan attaches great importance to IAEA and has extended cooperation and assistance to the Agency on many important issues towards the fulfillment of its mandate. Our civilian nuclear program is under IAEA safeguards and we have always fully complied with IAEA obligations," the ministry said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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