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Pentagon Denies Plans to Disarm Pakistan's Nuclear Warheads - 2001-10-29

The Pentagon is denying a published report that an elite U.S. unit has explored plans for an operation inside Pakistan aimed at finding and disarming that country's nuclear warheads.

Pentagon officials are usually reluctant to comment on operational or intelligence matters related to the current conflict raging inside Afghanistan.

But in a rare departure Monday, a spokesman for the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, specifically denied a report alleging an elite unit trained to find and disarm suspected nuclear weapons abroad has explored plans for an operation inside Pakistan.

The report appears this week in The New Yorker magazine and is written by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. He claims the undercover unit's preparations have been prompted by concerns that the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network has evolved into a regional crisis that has put Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at risk.

Mr. Hersh says the American team is apparently getting help from an Israeli special operations unit. He reports the Israeli unit has been in the United States training with the Americans at an undisclosed location.

U.S. officials acknowledge their concern over the safety of nuclear weapons everywhere in the world.

But just last month, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he is confident that Pakistan "will remain stable." He said he has no concerns about Pakistan's nuclear program.