Pakistani Position on Nuclear Bomb Seen Endangering U.S. Aid
Pakistan is so close to building a nuclear bomb that the United States probably will not be able to certify this year that the country does not have one, the Reagan Administration reportedly told members of Congress before President Bush took office.
That certification is necessary if Pakistan is to receive U.S. economic and military aid beyond the current fiscal year. The Reagan Administration had requested $621 million in aid to Pakistan for fiscal 1990.
The Washington Post quoted congressional sources Saturday as saying they were told by Reagan Administration officials that Pakistan is so close to building a bomb that “it had been a very close call” when the Administration in November renewed the certification that the country does not have a nuclear bomb.
Late Saturday, Pakistan denied possessing such a bomb. “Pakistan does not have a nuclear weapon,” a Pakistan Embassy spokesman in Washington said. “While many may have doubted the actions and intentions of the previous military dictatorship, the newly elected democratic government of (Benazir Bhutto) means what it says,” the spokesman said.
According to the Washington Post, when the certification was renewed, a letter to House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) was attached saying the Administration was nearing its limits of being able to continue making the certification.
“The Congress should be aware that as Pakistan’s capabilities grow, and if evidence about its activities continue to accumulate, this process of annual certification will require the President to reach judgments about the status of Pakistani nuclear activities that may be difficult or impossible to make with any degree of certainty,” the Post quoted Reagan as saying.
Without certification, Pakistan will not be eligible to receive U.S. economic and military aid beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
Congress has been reluctant to cut off aid to Pakistan because of its strategic role as a pipeline to anti-Communist guerrillas fighting Soviet forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
But with Soviet troops moving into the final phase of their withdrawal from Afghanistan under a U.N.-brokered agreement, the Post said, Pakistan’s strategic importance may weigh less in con1735550323 The newspaper said it was not known if President Bush will accept his predecessor’s conclusion about Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, although Bush is known to be extremely concerned about the problem of nuclear arms proliferation.
In his letter to Wright, the Post reported, Reagan said he had made his “best judgment” on the basis of available information to the U.S. government, based on the standard set by Congress544367975 The standard, he said, “is whether Pakistan possesses a nuclear explosive device, not whether Pakistan is attempting to develop or has developed various relevant capacities.”
Reagan said in the letter that the United States remains “extremely troubled” by the continuing risk of a nuclear arms race between Pakistan and India, the Post said.