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Pakistan not to sign CTBT without national consensus - Sattar

WASHINGTON, June 17 (APP)- Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said Thursday that while Pakistan believed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to be a good one, no decision will be taken on signing it without a national consensus. He also dismissed the view that there was any pressure on Pakistan to sign it or that there was any reason for quick action since it was not likely to come into force for some time. He pointed out that Pakistan had said yes to the Treaty in the UN General Assembly in 1996 and two years later, it had declared its intention to sign it, subject to the removal of sanctions. The Foreign Minister was addressing a news conference at the embassy of Pakistan at the conclusion of his talks with the US deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott. The talks held at the State Department began at 11.45 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. In between, a working lunch was taken. Sattar also met Talbott "one-to-one" briefly. He said this was to get to know each other better. Sattar said there were no "breakthroughs" and none were to be expected as it was the continuation of an interrupted process that had begun in May 1998 and had already been through eight rounds, the last held in February 1999. He said it was suggested at the end of last year that the talks should be resumed.

However, "we wanted to better consolidate our own thinking before entering discussions". At the conclusion of the talks with Talbott, the Foreign Minister also held brief meetings with Under secretary of State Thomas Pickering and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He said the talks had centered around five benchmarks, namely CTBT, the proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) nuclear and missile restraints, export controls and Pakistan-India relations, particularly the dialogue between the two countries on outstanding issues including Kashmir. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan was in favour of FMTC "in principle" but it had its concerns which would be raised at the appropriate time when negotiations on the treaty got underway at Geneva. "We will take an active part in those negotiations as we did in the case of CTBT," he promised. He said it was his hope that the treaty would be "globally acceptable". He said the US was aware of and appreciated the restraints that Pakistan had put into practice in the nuclear field. It was also known that Pakistan had decided to set up a strategic plans division within the government to undertake, study, research and institutionalize all nuclear-related issues. "We are committed to a policy of restraint and responsibility," he stressed. He said the custodial safety of the country's nuclear assets and facilities was of the utmost importance. Pakistan was prepared to invest a lot of money and effort in setting those systems in place. Firm controls would be established to prevent any unauthorised or accidental launch of nuclear assets. Gen. Pervez Musharraf had already made a pledge to that effect. Similarly, Pakistan had demonstrated a commitment to export controls and to abide by internationally accepted norms regarding the export or transfer of nuclear technology and know-how. He added that legislation covering this area would be enacted soon.

On Kashmir, he said Pakistan's position was clear and unambiguous. The future of Kashmir should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. He said this had been forcefully stated during the talks. As for US-Pakistan relations, they had been discussed at considerable length. He said he conveyed Pakistan's appreciation of President Bill Clinton's decision to visit the country. Pakistan also appreciated the US desire to be helpful and to play a positive role in resolving problems facing "our region" and reducing the existing tensions. Sattar said he had expressed regrets to the US side over the complicated legislation that made decision-making affecting bilateral relations so complicated and time consuming. He said during the talks the question of Pakistan's return to civilian rule came up and he stated that the government had accepted the Supreme Court judgment which had laid down a time-table for a return to democracy. The minister said, "We also let the US know that the nexus between crime and punishment was an essential requirement for sustainable democracy. Three governments had been removed from office on corruption charges and unless corruption was eliminated from the body politic, the chances of democracy succeeding were not bright. We emphasised that those returned to public office by the people should follow a national rather than a personal agenda. Steps would be taken to consolidate and guarantee the integrity of elective office. Pakistan had to be put back on the track through good governance and accountable government." He said the United States had displayed understanding for the steps Pakistan had taken to clean up the system, pursue accountability and re-establish the integrity of state institutions. Answering questions, Sattar disagreed that there was widespread opposition to the CTBT, stressing that a final decision would follow a national consensus. He said what misgivings there existed would be clarified.

He pointed out that two previous governments, each of a different party, had supported CTBT. Asked if terrorism was discussed during his meetings with the US officials, he said the issue had come up and he had emphasised that Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism and the major source of terrorism in the region was Indian state terrorism in Kashmir. He said he had expressed the government's determination to deal with terrorism and terrorists. He disclosed that a number of countries, including Egypt, Libya and Algeria, were deeply concerned about the activities of some of their citizens who were living in Pakistan or neighbouring areas. "We are sensitive to their concerns and we would identify such men and expel or extradite them. We have also encouraged Afghanistan to do the same." The Foreign Minister said there were proclaimed offenders wanted in Pakistan who had received shelter in Afghanistan. There were people who had committed horrible sectarian crimes and then fled across the border. There could be no question of the government acquiescing when it came to extremism and this point had been made abundantly clear. The United States was well aware of Pakistan's determination and its concerns. Asked if during the talks the two sides found that their definition of terrorism differed, Sattar replied that no such differences had arisen and no definition of what constituted terrorism had been discussed. To another question the foreign minister said that the United States wanted an end to violence in occupied Kashmir, and India and Pakistan to resume their dialogue. He said the United States appreciated Pakistan's efforts to improve bilateral relations and both sides had agreed to continue the process. He added that he had stressed that for far too long the emphasis had been on negative elements and it was time that the positive aspects of this old relationship were highlighted and developed. Sattar was asked if there had been any discussion on NPT. He replied that the matter had not come up.

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