International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei expressed alarm about the potential vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear stockpile amid the country's unstable political climate, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday (see GSN, Jan. 7).
"I fear that chaos or an extremist regime could take root in that country which has 30 to 40 warheads," ElBaradei said in an interview published yesterday by the Arab newspaper al-Hayat.
He added he was "worried that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of an extremist group in Pakistan or in Afghanistan" (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Jan. 8).
A Pakistani official called ElBaradei's comments "unwarranted and irresponsible," Reuters reported.
"Pakistan rejects the statement by Dr. ElBaradei," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told reporters. "As head of the IAEA, which is a U.N. body, he has to be careful about his statements which ought to remain within the parameters of his mandate."
Sadiq accused the international media of conducting a propaganda campaign to question the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.
"Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapon state. Our nuclear weapons are as secure as that of any other nuclear weapon state," he said.
Sadiq said that three U.S. lawmakers traveled to Pakistan this week to meet with officials for Pakistan's Strategic Plans Division, the military branch responsible for the country's nuclear arsenal. He did not elaborate on the meeting (Zeeshan Haider, Reuters/National Post, Jan. 8).