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July 8, 1998


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US takes note of India's willingness to sign CTBT

The Bill Clinton administration has noted India's willingness to move towards signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty but made it clear that the United States does not visualise any major breakthrough in this area at this juncture.

Talking to the media on the eve of the resumption of dialogue between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jaswant Singh in Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday, state department spokesman James Rubin yesterday said, ''We're hopeful that some of the dialogue in India now is a signal that they may have realised the wisdom of going forward with the CTBT.''

''But we are not on the verge of achieving that at this point: we're in the process of discussing it,'' he said, adding, ''We intend to continue to take advantage of appropriate opportunities in this area.''

In reply to a question, Rubin did not rule out the possibility of Talbott himself going in for further negotiations.

Rubin's attention was drawn to a report in The New York Times, saying that Talbott would go to New Delhi later this month for further discussion on the nuclear issue. The visit will be a kind of follow-up to his discussion with Jaswant Singh in Frankfurt, Germany, which is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Rubin, in reply, said, ''I think that there is always a talk about possible travel. But for now, the only meetings that are determined are the ones in Frankfurt'' and in Washington yesterday between former Pakistani foreign minister Sahebzada Yaqub Khan and Talbott. Khan was in the US capital as a special envoy of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief.

As for US President Clinton's trip to South Asia in November, he said that was on hold, pending further discussion.

''So I am not ruling out a visit of some officials to the region, but President Clinton's trip is on hold, and we have made no decision on further travel at this time,'' he added.

Rubin also commented on a media report, quoting a senior Indian official, that India would insist on its right to develop a nuclear arsenal capable of giving it a ''minimum'' deterrent against China.

''We strongly believe that the deployment of nuclear weapons in South Asia would be a dangerous development -- one that would seriously undermine the security of both India and Pakistan,'' he added.

Rubin recalled how multilateral bodies and individual countries had ''called upon India and Pakistan to take clear and meaningful steps in non-proliferation, including refraining from nuclear tests, refraining from deployment of nuclear weapons, refraining from deployment of ballistic missiles, and signing the CTBT immediately and without conditions, and finally, refraining from further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons". ''So obviously, all that is inconsistent with some desire to maintain some minimum nuclear deterrent posture, which we think would be a grave mistake,'' he added.

Rubin said, ''We also want to see both parties seriously engage in negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.''

''We want to work with both India and Pakistan to bring them into compliance with these international norms. That is one of the goals of deputy secretary Talbott's discussions and the continuing goal of the administration."

Asked whether India and Pakistan indicate or show some willingness to sign the CTBT, Rubin said: "I think we would prefer to let the other countries describe their own positions for themselves. What I can tell you is that we do not believe we are on the verge of a major breakthrough in this area. We think that it's up to India and Pakistan to make some important decisions.''

In reply to a question about Pakistani nuclear scientist Iftikhar Khan Chaudhary, who claimed to have witnessed Pakistan government officials discussing a pre-emptive nuclear attack on India, Rubin said, ''We have stated before that we note significant discrepancies in his story as reported in the press. After his arrival here, US officials interviewed him and reviewed his story". ''Apparently others have come to the same or similar conclusions as we have,'' he added.

Asked about his demand for a political asylum in the US, Rubin said the Immigration and Naturalisation Service officials would make a judgement on what basis to allow him in.


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