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|July 11, 1998||
Annan rules out threat of nuclear war in south Asia
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says there is no immediate threat of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan despite the rising political and military tension in south Asia.
''We are nowhere close to a full-scale nuclear war,'' he told the media at UN on Saturday. ''The fact that one has a nuclear weapon does not mean it automatically will be used.''
Annan added, however, that if nuclear weapons were used in south Asia it would be a ''very serious'' matter because of the density of population in an area inhabited by more than 1.4 billion people.
Annan said that since the test series, he has been in touch both with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharief to ''encourage them to resume bilateral talks -- not just on Kashmir but on peace in the region.''
The two Asian leaders are expected to meet at a summit of the seven-member South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation in Sri Lanka on July 30-31.
Annan said he would like to see the two leaders take up this ''crucial issue'' at the SAARC summit and also discuss ways of reducing military expenditures so that they could divert their resources from defence to social and economic development.
Last month, Annan sent a special emissary, Assistant Secretary- General Alvoro de Soto to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, to assess the political and military situation in south Asia.
India has all along argued that Kashmir was essentially a bilateral issue in which outsiders had no role.
Asked about India's rejection of the UN team, Annan said that although New Delhi ''did not find it possible to receive the delegation'', it had promised to receive the secretary-general any time he wished.
Ambassador Ahmad Kamal of Pakistan said that his government had made several suggestions during talks with de Soto. ''The construction of a regime for nuclear and conventional arms stability in south Asia will require careful and patient efforts to develop a consensus,'' he said.
''This is unlikely to be accomplished by India and Pakistan themselves. Nor can such a regime be imposed. It will have to evolve through a combination of simultaneous multilateral and bilateral efforts,'' Kamal said.
In a letter to Annan, Kamal reminded that Pakistan had already submitted a series of proposals to reduce tension in the region. In 1974, Pakistan proposed a nuclear-weapons-free zone in south Asia and, in 1978, proposed a joint declaration with India to renounce the acquisition or manufacture of nuclear weapons, it said.
In 1979, Pakistan proposed mutual inspections of each other's nuclear facilities, and in 1979, it proposed simultaneous adherence to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, it said.
The letter also said that Pakistan has proposed a bilateral or regional nuclear test ban treaty and a south Asia zero-missile zone.
''It was India vetoed each of these initiatives,'' the letter said.
Pakistan had asked Annan not only to visit the region, particularly India and Pakistan at an early date, but also appoint a UN special representative for Jammu and Kashmir.
''We favour a comprehensive approach to the interlinked issues of peace, security, confidence-building, conventional and nuclear arms control and disarmament,'' the letter added.
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