‘US seeks access to Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority’

‘US seeks access to Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority’
* Report says US looking to post officer at embassy to liaise with NCA * Pakistan refutes report, says no foreign govt has made any such request
Daily Times Monitor, April 17, 2008

Lahore: The United States has sought direct access to Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) by posting an officer at the US Embassy in Islamabad to liase with the body that controls the country’s nuclear weapons, The Times of India reported on Tuesday.

In the report, which appears under the headline “US goes for the jugular in Pakistan,” the Indian daily says that the Bush administration — having ‘finally’ acknowledged that “Pakistan represents a clear and present danger to American and world security”— is trying to gain a “stranglehold on the country’s nuclear weapons”. President George W Bush and high-ranking US officials had previously glossed over Pakistan’s role as the hub of world terror while targeting Iraq; most major terror attacks in the world have emanated from Pakistan, alleges the Indian newspaper.

This represents the 12th in a series of demands aimed at establishing greater US oversight, the newspaper reports, adding that the 11 demands issued last month included allowing US personnel to enter Pakistan on the basis of national identity documentation (such as a driver’s licences) and foregoing visas, accepting US licences, including arms licences, in Pakistan, and allowing US personnel to bear arms and wear their uniforms in Pakistan. Pakistan’s Defence Ministry, the Foreign Office and the Law Ministry were reported to have rejected the demands outright, said the Indian newspaper.

According to reports from Pakistan, the new request for an NCA liaison was made through verbal contact via an assistant secretary-level official, it reported.

According to the newspaper, US Embassy spokeswoman in Islamabad Elizabeth Colton did not deny the story outright, but told the Pakistani media: “We are in touch with all elements of the Pakistan government all the time. But we do not publish or discuss details of our diplomatic discussions and assignments.”

Pakistan refutes: Meanwhile, Pakistan on Wednesday refuted reports that the US had made any request to ‘accredit an official’ to the NCA, Online reported. “Neither has any foreign government made a request to accredit an official to the SPD [Strategic Plans Division, the NCA Secretariat] nor does a system exist to accept such accreditations,” said Foreign Office spokesman Muhammad Sadiq.

“The SPD briefs visiting senior government officials, legislators and foreign media representatives on the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear programme. These briefings are co-ordinated by ambassadors or officials concerned,” he said, adding that the Foreign Affairs Ministry was kept abreast of all such briefings.“There is no question of allowing access to any outsider to SPD for any other purpose,” Sadiq reiterated.

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