Pakistan says it's in no hurry to conduct nuclear test
May 15, 1998
Web posted at: 1:48 p.m. EDT (1748 GMT)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawas Sharif said Friday his country is in no rush to conduct a
nuclear test even though it has had the capability to do so for at least 20 years.
An American delegation led by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Strobe Talbott met with Pakistani officials Friday morning
and was to meet with them again Friday afternoon in an
effort to convince Pakistan not to conduct a nuclear test.
Since India's detonation of five nuclear devices at a desert
range Monday and Wednesday, spy satellites have detected an
influx of equipment, technicians and security activities at a
Chagai Hills, a Pakistani nuclear test site near the Iranian
U.S. officials in Washington have warned that Pakistan could
explode a device as early as Sunday.
"Let's hope the area will be calm. But we're all concerned,"
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Shelby said
following a two-hour closed door briefing Thursday with CIA
Director George Tenet and other intelligence officials.
Sharif told CNN that Pakistan "wants to act responsibly" and
said he is looking forward to seeing what proposals Talbott
U.S. diplomats in Islamabad
Diplomats say Talbott would offer Pakistan, whose economy is
creaking under the burden of a $30 billion debt, inducements
to keep its nuclear device in cold storage and prevent a
sharp escalation of tension in the region.
"It will be the carrot and stick approach," said one European
diplomat. "But I fear that he may find that national pride
does not have a price."
He would also point to heavy sanctions clamped on India by
the United States and Japan as proof of Washington's resolve
to keep a lid on tension in a flashpoint region, they said.
Sanctions could cause economic crisis
Economists warned that Pakistan's battered economy would
slump into deep crisis if its backers imposed sanctions.
"If Pakistan conducts a nuclear test it will have serious
repercussions on our economy," said Sajjad Akther, an
economist with the Canadian-funded Social Policy and
There was speculation the United States might offer to drop
its opposition to the delivery of a fleet of F-16 jets that
Pakistan ordered but that was blocked.
In 1990, the delivery of a fleet of planes from General
Dynamics was blocked by a U.S. judgment that Islamabad
possessed nuclear weapons.
The United States returned about $150 million to Pakistan but
another $501 million remained in dispute.
Pakistan has threatened legal action in the United States to
recover the money and Clinton, who is expected to visit the
region in November, has told Islamabad he would like to see
the row resolved, Pakistani officials said.
The Pakistani government's announcement comes after earlier
threats of nuclear testing.
"Our position is quite clear...our response will be in
keeping with the threats we are facing and with our national
security interests," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tariq
Altaf after meeting with Talbott.
The English-language daily Nation said the Cabinet, "barring
a few meek voices," wanted a test explosion and had
established a special six-man committee to study Islamabad's
Reuters contributed to this report.