Pakistan denies discussing nuclear deal with US

Islamabad, Oct 19 (IANS) Pakistan has denied a White House claim that it was working with the US towards a pact that would limit Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal, the media reported on Monday.

“No deal is being discussed between the two countries. Nor has the US made any demand on Pakistan,” foreign office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said here.

“History is a testimony to the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accepts no demand from any state,” The Nation newspaper quoted him as saying.

The statement said the prime minister firmly believed in policies directed at preserving, protecting and promoting Pakistan’s national interests, the media reports said.

Sharif, who was to leave for the US on Sunday night, delayed his travel to receive briefing from the head of the ISI intelligence agency who returned from the US the same night.

Sharif’s key aides, Sartaj Aziz and Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, are already in Washington, meeting US officials on issues of bilateral interest and regional importance.

White House officials said on Thursday they have started talks that could ultimately govern the scale of Pakistan’s growing nuclear arsenal.

Such a deal, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, was based on US concerns that Pakistan could be on the verge of deploying a small tactical nuclear weapon – very similar to those placed in Europe by the US during the Cold War to deter Soviet Union.

“There has been a lot of public speculation about this,” Earnest said.

“At this point, the US has been engaged with Pakistan, as well as the rest of the international community, on issues related to nuclear safety and security.”

Earnest, however, added that the current climate of discussions between Washington and Islamabad were not at a level where officials might expect a deal to be reached by the time Sharif reaches the US on October 22.

Pakistani official sources were quoted as saying that Sharif would reach Washington on Tuesday after a night halt in London.

Before leaving Islamabad, Sharif said Pakistan was “a responsible sovereign nuclear state” and that “its strategic assets are secured under a foolproof arrangement”.

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