- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

NEW YORK — Pakistan asked the United States and other Western countries yesterday to help it develop civilian nuclear technology, citing Washington’s July pledge for such assistance to neighboring India.

The Bush administration, however, dismissed the request, saying Pakistan’s energy needs are not as pressing as India’s.

Islamabad also offered to erect a fence along its border with Afghanistan to prevent incursions of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters from either side.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf discussed the proposal with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York. But he did not raise the civilian nuclear issue, U.S. and Pakistani officials said, and it was not clear whether he would mention it to President Bush when they meet tomorrow.

“We would like the developed countries — especially the Western countries and the United States — to extend cooperation to Pakistan for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Naeem Khan said at a press conference in Islamabad.

Although Gen. Musharraf did not bring up the matter yesterday, a Pakistani official traveling with him said that the United States and Pakistan have been “interacting” on the issue through diplomatic channels.

Pakistan built its first nuclear power station in 1972 with Canadian help, but Western cooperation was later discontinued under pressure from the United States and amid suspicions of a secret nuclear weapons program.

Nuclear tests were conducted in 1998, in response to a series of similar tests by India.

China helped the South Asian country start a 300-megawatt nuclear power plant in 1999, and construction of another plant of the same capacity began in April this year.

Even though the Bush administration calls Pakistan one of its staunchest allies in the war on terrorism, it has grown wary of its nuclear capabilities, especially because scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted last year that he sold nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

“Pakistan doesn’t have the same energy requirements, of course, that India does. And also, as we have made very clear, part of our consideration is the establishment of a long, positive, non-proliferation record,” Robert Joseph, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told Congress last week.

“And so as we look at that, and as we take that into consideration, we have made the determination that we need not move to establish the same type of cooperation with Pakistan,” Mr. Joseph said at a House International Relations Committee hearing.

Gen. Musharraf, who is scheduled to meet with Mr. Bush during the United Nations 60th anniversary summit, told Miss Rice yesterday that his offer to build a fence along the Pakistani-Afghan border is a result of criticism that Islamabad is not doing enough to fight terrorism.

“Pakistan is prepared to raise a fence so that we can put an end to these allegations,” Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri told reporters in New York. “Pakistan can do nothing more than that to prevent incursions.”

He did not specify where and when the fence would be erected, but said that Miss Rice was “very appreciative” of the idea.

A State Department official said the fence issue is not new and was mentioned in a larger discussion about security in the border areas.

“Pakistan has nothing to hide,” Mr. Kasuri said, “and we are fed up with people who say Pakistan has to do more to counter terrorism.”

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