Italians here for N-safety talks

Published December 6, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Dec 5: Two physicists of the Italian Arms Control Centre, Landau Network Centro Volta, have arrived here on a five-day visit, ending Dec 7, to prepare a report on the status of nuclear security in Pakistan.

Sources said the visiting scientists, Prof Paolo Cotta-Ramusino and Prof Maurizio Martellini, would be looking at certain key questions relating to safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, the percentage of nuclear weapons that are assembled, effects of the Sept 11 attacks and the Afghan crisis on the nuclear posture of Pakistan, Pakistan’s reaction to possible Indian attack and the public perception of the nuclear weapons. The report would later be submitted to the Italian government, they said.

The scientists, visiting under the auspices of the foreign ministry of Italy, have held deliberations with the foreign ministry officials and think-tanks to assess the safety of nuclear weapons and the risks of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to terrorists and rogue states, the sources said, adding that a similar nuclear risk assessment visit to India is not on the itinerary of the scientists for the time being.

In a synopsis, co-authored by the two scientists for their visit, it is said the situation of Pakistan is crucial, specially considering the terrorist attacks on the United States, the dimension of the worldwide spread of the relevant terrorist network and the ensuing Afghan conflict. “The situation has raised serious concerns about the possibility that terrorist groups have acquired weapons of mass destruction or may be striving to acquire such weapons.”

The scientists said Pakistan is an important country from the point of view of global stability, its long border with Afghanistan, a sizable section of the public that supports radical Islamic parties and scientists and technicians who are capable of building nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, in addition to the fact that the country has fissile materials and nuclear weapons.

Some of the questions being asked by the two scientists have raised concern in the security establishment.

The sources said that in terms of the nuclear proliferation risks the scientists are exploring the possible links of Pakistani nuclear scientists with the Afghan Taliban and the Arab Afghans in the past and present scenarios, effectiveness of control over Pakistani fissile material storage and production facilities, possible transfer of illicit nuclear material through Pakistan and Afghanistan and the effectiveness of control of Pakistan’s radioactive sources and their potential illicit traffic.

They said that in terms of the chemical and biological weapons the scientists have the questions about effective control of materials of concern for chemical and biological weapons transfer and diffusion, Pakistan Afghan border in recent history and transfer of illicit biological, chemical agents and dual use equipment through the border.

Some of the questions being asked relate to transfer of nuclear scientists and experts to Afghanistan or any other country and the impact of recent events on the scientific community, particularly on the community of scientists involved in military and defence activities.

The sources said the scientists would also report the impact of Pakistan’s nuclear programme on the role of Islamic countries in the international arena and whether Pakistan’s nuclearization has contributed to any change in the role of the Islamic countries.

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