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Pakistan PM asks US for N-deal

Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington | July 30, 2008 14:11 IST

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Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has demanded from the US a nuclear deal similar to the one Washington has made with India, assuring that the nuclear proliferation network of its scientist A Q Khan was broken and will not be repeated.

"There should be no preferential, there should be no discrimination. And if they want to give civilian nuclear status to India, we would also expect the same for Pakistan too," Gilani said at a gathering here under the aegis of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Middle East Institute.

Pressed on the illegal network run by Khan, father of Pakistan's atomic programme, who had peddled nuclear material and technology to countries like Iran, North Korea and Libya, the leader maintained that the A Q Khan saga was over.

"Certainly it cannot happen again and that chapter is over. The network is broken," Gilani, who arrived on Sunday on a three-day visit, said.

He said that the new civilian government in Islamabad wanted to have good relations with India, was working for enhancing bilateral trade and would like to resolve all issues including the "core issue" of Kashmir.

On Kashmir, Gilani said, "They (United States) should encourage and support this issue. That means only they can understand," but refrained from asking Washington to play the role of a mediator.

However, when pressed by President of Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass on whether Washington should appoint a special envoy or play a high visibility or mediatory role, Gilani quipped, "Actually what the United States really want, they can do it."

Gilani did not mention India in his formal remarks and made the comments on relations with New Delhi [Images], Kashmir and the civilian nuclear deal only during the interactive session.

"My government wants to have very cordial relationship with the neighbours. We want to have very good relationship with Afghanistan... At the same time we want to have very good relations with India," the Pakistani leader said.

"When I became the prime minister, the prime minister of India called me and congratulated me for my victory. Now when he got the vote of confidence only a few days back, I rang him up and congratulated him and he told me, 'Mr Prime Minister, we want to resolve all issues with you including the core issue of Kashmir'," Gilani said.

Recalling his meeting with President George W Bush [Images] in Egypt [Images] two months back, he said, "I said president how can we fight on too many fronts. He said that this is the right time to resolve the issue of Kashmir."

In a recent trade policy of Pakistan, Gilani said, the government has decided to have more trade relations with India. "And we are doing that," he said.

In his opening remarks, Gilani focused on terrorism, especially as it has affected Pakistan which in his view was paying the price for extremism and fanaticism.

But the prime minister insisted that extremism cannot be tackled by military means alone and that poverty and hopelessness must be addressed through massive economic developmental plans.

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