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Musharraf Says He's Sure Bin Laden Doesn't Have Nukes - 2001-11-12


Pakistan's leader Pervez Musharraf says he doubts Osama bin Laden has nuclear weapons, but does not rule out the possibility he may possess chemical or biological weapons. The frontline state is a key ally in the U.S. campaign against al-Qaida terrorist bases in neighboring Afghanistan.

General Musharraf says he cannot imagine that Osama bin Laden has nuclear weapons or could launch a nuclear attack. "I am very sure he does not and cannot do it because a nuclear weapon is not really a football you can just possess and activate at will," he said.

In an interview on NBC television's "Meet the Press", General Musharraf also stresses his country's nuclear arsenal is secure and safe from terrorist threats.

A New York Times report says Pakistan's leader redeployed the arsenal after Pakistan joined the U.S. right against terrorism.

Pakistan is considered a key ally in that campaign. Pakistan supported the Taleban leaders in Kabul who are harboring Osama bin Laden, but decided to back the U.S.-led campaign against them after the September 11 terrorist strikes against the United States. His decision met with protests from religious militants in his own country.

The Bush administration has shown its gratitude to General Musharraf with pledges of as much as $1-billion in aid. But the administration has stopped short of filling a 10-year-old order for F-16 fighter jets, because of sanctions imposed against Pakistan for its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. "This is one issue which is held very much against the United States and therefore I thought if you want to create an impression on the Pakistani common man's mind, this would certainly create an impression," he said.

Washington has also offered to facilitate a dialogue between Pakistan and neighboring India to resolve their dispute over Kashmir.

India has accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir, a charge General Musharraf denies. "Whatever is being done there is a freedom struggle. The isolated incidents of terrorist acts have been done by some people," he said. "If the proof is they have their origin in Pakistan, we will move against them. But let me tell you all moral support is available to what is happening in Kashmir, but we do not have such terrorist bases in Pakistan. And this is a misperception being created by the Indians."

U.S. officials have worried that rising tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors could disrupt the anti-terrorism coalition.

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