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Monday, May 11, 1998 Published at 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK


India's surprise nuclear tests



India has announced that it has conducted three underground nuclear tests - the first since 1974.

The tests took place at a nuclear test ground in Pokhran in the northern desert state of Rajasthan, 550 kilometres (330 miles) south-west of New Delhi.

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said tests confirmed there had been no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere.

"These were contained explosions like the experiment conducted in May 1974," he said at an unexpected press conference.

He said the devices tested were a fission device, a low-yield device and a thermonuclear device.

"I warmly congratulate the scientists and engineers who have carried out these successful tests," he said.

He gave few further details and refused to answer journalists' questions.

When Mr Vajpayee's coalition government took over in March, it pledged to "exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons."

But BBC Correspondent Mike Wooldridge says that the announcement still comes as a surprise.

The tests have been condemned by the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, who has called for international sanctions against India.

Pokhran is only about 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Pakistan, with which India has fought three wars since the two countries' independence from Britain in 1947.

India, Pakistan and Israel are the three nations widely suspected of nuclear capability that have not joined the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is now observed by 185 countries.



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