Pakistan Wants Sanctions Lifted
Friday, June 16, 2000 4:29 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar urged the United States on Friday to lift its economic and military sanctions against Pakistan's military-ruled government. Both Sattar and U.S. officials said their resumption of high-level nuclear talks went well.
Sattar also criticized U.S. sanctions against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban as ``counterproductive.''
``Pakistan's relations with the United States remain troubled but friendly,'' Sattar said at a news conference disrupted by Afghans shouting criticism of Pakistan influence in their homeland. Sattar said he assured U.S. officials that Pakistan wants to maintain a nuclear deterrent at ``minimum credible levels'' and is not in an arms race with India.
His visit came on the day India test fired a Prithvi missile -- an action which brought criticism from the State Department. Spokesman Richard Boucher said such tests have ``the potential to increase tension in the region'' because they prompt speculation that one country is ahead of the other. Boucher said U.S. officials believe no strategically significant difference exists between the two countries' capabilities.
Sattar met Thursday with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other top officials on security, nuclear and other issues. President Clinton visited Pakistan briefly in March and Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering was in Islamabad last month, but a Sattar meeting Thursday with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was the first formal nuclear dialogue since talks were suspended in February 1999.
Sattar said the talks led to ``better mutual understanding'' and were ``very productive.'' He did not give specifics.
U.S. officials also described the talks in positive terms, saying they focused on ``our mutual concern about preserving South Asian security while preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems.''
Boucher, speaking for the U.S. government, said the two explored how to reduce tension between Pakistan and India, primarily over Kashmir.
``There was agreement to continue to work closely together to prevent further proliferation, an arms race, and conflict in the region,'' Boucher said, adding that they also discussed how to move ahead in negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty and the possibility of a multilateral moratorium on production of such nuclear materials pending implementation of the treaty.
Boucher said U.S. officials would like a ``detailed roadmap'' for quickly restoring democracy to Pakistan. He said Sattar and Pickering discussed that issue, with Albright participating briefly in their meeting.
Washington has been pressing both Pakistan and India to sign the global test ban treaty after both countries conducted nuclear tests in May 1998 and declared themselves nuclear powers. U.S. officials also are concerned about the state of democracy in Pakistan following the Oct. 12 takeover by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has promised a return to elected civilian government in three years.
``We are prepared to accept any restraints and nonproliferation measures on a nondiscriminatory, regional or global basis,'' Sattar said at the National Press Club.
U.S. sanctions against Pakistan ``single out one country and are not consistent with friendly relations,'' he said, adding, ``The U.S. government and the U.S. Congress should adopt a more general, evenhanded, balanced approach to Pakistan.''
He said Pakistan is concerned about a 28 percent increase in India's defense budget and said its ``attempt to seek dominance in the Indian Ocean region and beyond will be inherently destabilizing.''
Several Afghans were peacefully ushered out of the press conference shouting accusations that Pakistan controls the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Others in the group waved banners denouncing Pakistan as Sattar entered and left the building
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