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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 17:35 GMT
Pakistan hands nuclear arms to army
Pakistan Ghauri missile
Pakistan ''cannot be wiped out by nuclear weapons''
Pakistan's intermediate range Ghauri missile system has been formally handed over to the army's Strategic Force Command.

The surface-to-surface missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and Pakistan has already carried out successful tests.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
President Musharraf warned of ''non-conventional'' war
It is being seen as Islamabad's way of telling the world it has now bought the nuclear weapons, as well as an effective delivery system.

Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf also strongly refuted recent reports of cooperation between Pakistan and North Korea in the nuclear field and said such allegations were baseless and part of malicious propaganda.

Deterrent

The official announcement does not say how many missiles have been handed over to the Pakistan army's recently created Strategic Force Command, but it is widely believed the serial production of Ghauri missiles has already started.

However President Musharraf said the sole purpose of having nuclear capability is deterrence of aggression and the defence of the country's sovereignty.

Earlier, Pakistan warned that it would teach India an "unforgettable lesson" if Delhi were to launch a nuclear attack.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was replying to remarks by Indian Defence Minister
Our response will be an historic lesson for them if they used the nuclear option

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed
George Fernandes that Pakistan would be wiped out in a nuclear conflict.

Mr Ahmed called Mr Fernandes' comments the "ravings of a crazy man'' and condemned the ''racialist and communal policies pursued by the ruling Hindu nationalist clique''.

Mr Ahmed said: ''We do not want war but if war is imposed on Pakistan, we have the will to give a crushing reply.''

'Irresponsible'

Mr Fernandes had told a conference in Hyderabad: ''The Pakistani leadership should not get into the idea of committing suicide because we can take a bomb or two more.''

He was replying to a question about Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's remarks on 30 December that India should expect a "non-conventional war" if it attacked Pakistan.

George Fernandes
Fernandes: ''We can take a bomb or two more''
The president's spokesman later made clear he was not referring to nuclear weapons.

However, Mr Fernandes described the comments as "irresponsible".

Mr Ahmed said: ''Pakistan is a reality and cannot be wiped out through nuclear weapons... We know how to defend ourselves and respond to the the designs of the enemy.

''Our response will be an historic lesson for them if they used the nuclear option.''

Back from brink

Mr Ahmed said the Indian nuclear threat was ''nothing but a pipe dream and a manifestation of India's deep frustration in its design to establish hegemony in the region''.

He added: ''Pakistan is a responsible state which has never flaunted its nuclear muscles as India has been doing all along''.

India has ruled out any first strike with nuclear weapons, but reserves the right to use them in the event of an attack using non-conventional arms.

Pakistan has not ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons in the event of a major attack.

The rivals came close to war last year following an attack in December 2001 on the Indian parliament, which Delhi blamed on Pakistani-backed militants.

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07 Jan 03 | South Asia
04 Jan 03 | South Asia
30 Dec 02 | South Asia
02 Dec 02 | South Asia
01 May 02 | South Asia
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