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May 30, 1998


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Pakistan conducts another nuclear test

Pakistan detonated another nuclear device today, the sixth in three days, defence officials said.

The latest blast, believed to be about 18 kilotons or slightly smaller than the Hiroshima bomb, follows five nuclear tests that Pakistan conducted on Thursday.

''Today we have proved the credibility of our defence,'' said Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmed.

Ahmed congratulated Pakistan's scientists and said no radioactivity was released. Asserting that the six tests were successful, he said Pakistan has completed the current series.

He said the country's nuclear capabilities were meant only for self-defence and as a deterrent. ''Our capabilities are only for self-defence and to deter aggression,'' he told the media.

He said it was not Pakistan's intention to enter into an arms race. ''The history of the Cold War era showed that such disastrous races are counter-productive and definitely not sustainable,'' he added.

He said the only race the country proposes to run is for economic development. ''Over one billion people in the region do not want and certainly cannot afford to divert their precious resources for a nuclear confrontation.''

Today's blast, conducted at 1310 hours local time, came two days after the five tests on Thursday. Earlier, both state-run Pakistan Radio and Pakistan Television had announced that two devices had been exploded, but Ahmed later clarified that it was in fact just one.

There also was confusion about the number of devices exploded on Thursday, set off to match India, which earlier conducted five nuclear explosions. Initial reports said two devices had been exploded. Later reports claimed three and, finally in an address to the nation on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief said five devices had been exploded. Adding more confusion to the conflicting claims is the Indian seismic experts's contention that Pakistan conducted only one test on Thursday.

Saturday's test was conducted in the Chagai region of Pakistan's desolate southwestern Baluchistan province, barely 50 km from the Iranian border, near the site of the first test. Ninety minutes before the test, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter Scale was recorded near the Tajikstan border. The ''quake was not connected with the Pakistan test''.

Unlike Thursday's tests -- where the devices were placed in a straight tunnel -- Saturday's device was placed in an L-shaped tunnel.

There is a feeling that Pakistan did not conduct enough tests on Thursday to obtain the necessary data to confirm its technological prowess, hence Saturday's test. Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub appeared to confirm this when he told CNN that Pakistan's nuclear scientists felt they had to conduct another test to gather more data.

Even before Pakistan conducted Saturday's test, the Washington Times reported that Islamabad may have nuclear warheads for the M-11 missiles it bought from China several years ago and that it will soon carry out a second test launch of its new medium-range Ghauri missile.

The US government, until recently, has denied that Pakistan had any of the Chinese-made, short-range M-11s in its arsenal, because of the presence of the systems would trigger US economic sanctions against both Pakistan and China, the daily said.

Both countries were sanctioned by the United States in 1991 and 1993 for sales of M-11 technology.

In an interview yesterday with Associated Press, the Pakistan foreign minister said Pakistan's nuclear programme was an ''active one''. He also declared Pakistan a nuclear power and said that his country was ready to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty but only if India did so.

In an interview published in Pakistan's leading English-language newspaper, The News, on Saturday morning, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear programme, said the first of five devices were boosted fission devices.

He claimed his country's nuclear weapons programme was more ''sophisticated'' than India's.

''I would say they have used the old technology of plutonium from spent fuel, whereas we have used enriched uranium, which is much more sophisticated and a safer process,'' Dr Khan was quoted as telling The News. Gohar Ayub too boasted about Pakistan's nuclear superiority on the subcontinent.

In Delhi, government sources, speaking off the record, told CNN that Pakistan may be indulging in "nuclear oneupmanship." They did not believe last week's Indian moratorium on further nuclear tests would be withdrawn, since India has already obtained enough data from last fortnight's tests to enable computer simulated tests.

Jaswant Singh, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, told Star News that he was not surprised by the Pakistan tests, and saw no reason to get worried. "Our nuclear programme is not Pakistan-centric, even though their nuclear programme may be India-centric."

Regretting Pakistan's belligerent stand towards India's nuclear programme, he told Rediff On The NeT, ''It is a matter of sadness that Pakistan looks at things with such an Indo-centric view.

''India should pursue the path that it always has, that of asserting its sovereign rights as a nation and looking after its security interests,'' he said. ''I don't think India needs to do anything at this point. I just think that the Western countries have to realise that everything will not occur as per their concept. Their idea of order is different. For centuries India's affairs have been in order and theirs in disorder...''

Asked about the prospects of improving Indo-Pak relations, he said, ''The chances of peace between our two countries are very good. More so, if the Western powers stop meddling in our affairs.''

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said India wants peace. "India wants friendship with Pakistan. It is committed to the resolution of the Kashmir issue through peaceful discussions and negotiations," the prime minister said. "India wants to be a good neighbour."

A source in the prime minister's office, however, told CNN that "India's nuclear programme is not an India-Pakistan cricket match, where India must beat Pakistan every time."

However, officials at the external affairs ministry said India is not taking any chances with its security concerns. They asserted that it remained fully prepared to deal firmly and effectively with any threat to the national security in the wake of another nuclear test conducted by Pakistan.

In a statement after a meeting of the Union Cabinet, the external affairs ministry dismissed Pakistan's allegation that it conducted nuclear tests because of a threat from India and reiterated Vajpayee's statement yesterday that New Delhi did not pose any threat to Islamabad.

The statement renewed the prime minister's offer to discuss a ''no first use agreement with Pakistan, reflecting our desire to maintain peace and stability in the region''.

Stating that India was already observing a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing, it said, ''We are in the knowledge of Pakistan having conducted one more nuclear test today. The development was expected. Facts are being ascertained.''

But around the world the latest test is being met with condemnation.

The United States has condemned Pakistan for its latest nuclear test, saying it was disappointed that Islamabad ignored international calls to exercise restraint.

The US state department said the latest Pakistani action raised further tension in South Asia and undermined the global consensus on non-proliferation.

The US called again on Pakistan and India to halt any further tests.

President Bill Clinton was informed about the test early this morning by his national security team.

Later in the day, Clinton is expected to sign documents formally imposing sanctions on Pakistan for exploding the first round of nuclear devices on Thursday.

The measures would include an US commitment to oppose assistance to Pakistan by the International Monetary Fund and other lending agencies.

Meanwhile, reports of Saturday's test elated Pakistanis.

Patrons at a restaurant in Islamabad were on cloud nine. ''It's great for the country,'' said Liaqat Abbas. ''It's our right. When India did it, no one raised a voice.''

Another Pakistani Ishaq Ahmed said Pakistanis were not afraid of sanctions the West has threatened to bring against Pakistan to punish it for its nuclear testing.

''We are not being defiant, we just have our rights like anyone else,'' he said even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief was to return to his hometown of Lahore in eastern Punjab province later on Saturday, where a massive reception has been organised to celebrate the nuclear tests.

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