Washington, Feb 19 -- Voicing serious concerns over the increasing nuclear arsenal of Pakistan, a top US Senator has sought a clear assurance from the Obama administration that the American aid money is not used by Islamabad to fund its atomic weapons programme.
In a joint letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Virginia Senator Jim Webb threatened that in the absence of such an assurance, he would introduce a legislation in the Congress that would "require a certification" from the administration that US funds are not used by Pakistan for its nuclear weapons programme.
"Published reports indicate that Pakistan has steadily increased its nuclear arsenal over the past two years, putting it on a path to overtake Britain as the world's fifth largest nuclear weapons power," Webb, a Democrat, wrote in the February 17 letter to Clinton and Gates released to the media yesterday.
"I am writing to restate my concern that no US funds appropriated for assistance to Pakistan be used to support, expand or assist the government of Pakistan in the development of its nuclear weapons," he wrote.
In the absence of such clear assurances from the administration, Webb said he would be compelled to re-introduce the legislative amendment he had introduced in this regard in 2009.
Two years ago, Webb, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 Supplemental Appropriations Act that would have required certification that no funds appropriated for assistance to Pakistan would be used to advance programmes outside of direct US security interests, including expansion of Islamabad's nuclear weapons programme.
Following assurances of greater transparency and accountability from administration officials, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Webb decided not to pursue the amendment.
"Recent press reports on Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme are troubling," Webb said in his letter. "Just last week, the Washington Post reported that Pakistan has begun work on what appears to be a fourth plutonium-producing reactor, another signal that Pakistan continues ambitious efforts to modernise and expand its nuclear weapons."
"I am writing to restate my concern that no US funds appropriated for assistance to Pakistan be used to support, expand, or assist the Government of Pakistan in the development of its nuclear weapons. Absent clear assurances that this is not the case, I will feel compelled to re-introduce the amendment I offered in 2009," Webb wrote. There was no immediate reaction from the State Department. PTI