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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Pakistan nukes pose major threat to regional security - analyst

RIA Novosti

17/06/2008 18:07 MOSCOW, June 17 (RIA Novosti) - Pakistan's nuclear arsenal poses a greater threat to security in the region than Iran's uranium enrichment, due to the volatile political situation in the country, a Russian expert said on Tuesday.

"The main and most serious threat to the region is not Iran or Israel [and their alleged nuclear weapons], but Pakistan [and its existing nuclear arsenal]," said Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy.

The situation in Pakistan has seriously deteriorated following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto last year. Opponents of President Pervez Musharraf won elections in February and have called for the president to step down.

"We are witnessing a severe political crisis in the country [Pakistan], which possesses weapons of mass destruction, but for some reason we are not paying attention to this problem," Karaganov told a news conference at RIA Novosti.

Pakistan conducted underground nuclear tests in 1998 and since then has routinely carried out ballistic missile tests.

Recently, Pakistan test-fired a medium-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile. The high-precision Shaheen-1 missile has a range of up to 700 kilometers (about 440 miles). It is a railroad platform-based mobile variant of the Pakistani Hatf-IV ballistic missile.

Last year, Pakistan conducted a successful test launch of a new version of its long-range nuclear-capable missile, the Shaheen II (Hatf VI), which has a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,245 miles), and the short-range Abdali (Hatf II) missile with a range of 180 kilometers (112 miles).

However, Pakistan has repeatedly dismissed comments by Western media that the country's nuclear weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists due to the current volatile political situation in Pakistan.

The Pakistani military said the armed forces were a highly professional, motivated and well-trained force and were capable of safeguarding and securing nuclear assets against all categories of threat.

Various sources estimate that Pakistan has built at least 50 nuclear warheads.

Karaganov said the only way to ensure stability in Central Asia and the Middle East is to create a regional security system with all major world powers acting as guarantors.

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