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Russia Questions Pakistani Atomic Protections

Russia last year said security shortcomings persist in Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and warned that Pakistani atomic personnel were susceptible to attack or kidnapping, says a classified U.S. State Department cable released Sunday by the openness advocacy organization WikiLeaks (see GSN, Nov. 29).

A Russian Foreign Ministry official last December said uncertainty remained about the circumstances of multiple Pakistani nuclear workers who had been targeted by extremists, the Los Angeles Times quoted the February 24 document as saying.

"Some were killed, and a number were abducted, and there has been no trace seen of them," the cable quoted Yuriy Korolev, the Russian official, as saying.

Korolev said militants could seek to enlist participants in the Asian state's nuclear efforts with similar spiritual convictions, according to the document.

Despite the numerous protective features put in place at Pakistani nuclear sites with U.S. support, "there are 120,000 to 130,000 people directly involved in Pakistan's nuclear and missile programs, working in these facilities and protecting them," the official said. "Regardless of the clearance process for these people, there is no way to guarantee that all are 100 percent loyal and reliable."

However, Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, said his country's nuclear weapons and related materials were safe.

"Pakistan's nuclear program is very well governed," Fatemi said. "We have trained personnel and there has never been any leakage or any incident. ... So I don't believe that this concern by the U.S. is a genuine concern" (Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 29).

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