Washington: Cranking up pressure on Pakistan which is facing Taliban onslaught, Britain has asked Islamabad to make sure that its writ runs across the entire country and its nuclear weapons are under ‘lock and key’.
“It’s not acceptable for a terrorist organisation to claim important towns and cities,” British foreign secretary David Miliband told CNN in an interview.
Miliband was apparently referring to the Taliban taking over the Swat Valley and some areas near Pakistan’s capital.
“It’s essential that the Government of Pakistan ensure that their writ runs across the whole of their territory,” he said.
Miliband also spoke about the increasing concern about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons with Taliban and al-Qaeda stepping up their operations.
“We, obviously, along with the whole world, want to make sure that anyone with a nuclear arsenal keeps it under lock and key,” Miliband, who met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in New York, said.
Miliband, however, said: “I’ve never been presented with any intelligence evidence that suggests that the Pakistani arsenal is not under lock and key.”
“The western part of Pakistan is vital to everything that the US and its coalition allies are trying to do in Afghanistan. You can’t have stability in Afghanistan without stability in Pakistan,” Miliband said.
Seeking to allay western concerns, Zardari, who met US President Barack Obama and his top officials here, assured that the Pakistan government has complete command and control of the nuclear weapons.
“We were assured by President Zardari that they have complete command and control of the nuclear weapons in Pakistan,” state department spokesman Ian Kelly said.
When asked by reporters how the US would verify that, Kelly said: “We have full faith and confidence in President Zardari.”
Describing as ‘very productive’ the Obama-Zardari meeting on the sidelines of a trilateral summit with their Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, Kelly said: “We look forward to continuing to help the government of Pakistan in their battle against the extremists and their attempt to establish democratic institutions.”
Asked about the situation in restive Swat Valley where people were fleeing in the wake of the military offensive, Kelly said that the US will be in close consultation with Zardari and his government.
“I think at this point we are assessing what the needs are and we are assessing where our aid can fit in and be of use. But, we support, of course, the operation in the Swat Valley, and we will stand ready to help with any kind of humanitarian situation that might evolved out of it,” Kelly added.