Washington don’t discuss nuclear cooperation with Pakistan

Washington won't discuss nuclear cooperation with Pakistan and is firmly opposed to a proposed pipeline that would bring natural gas to the South Asian nation from Iran, the U.S. energy secretary said Monday. U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, who was on a one-day visit to Pakistan following a brief stopover by President George W. Bush earlier this month, said Pakistani officials raised the nuclear issue in talks Monday, but added that relations between the two nations did not extend to cooperation in that area.

"We have developed a very wide-ranging and effective set of dialogue and discussions with Pakistan, but it does not include nuclear energy," Bodman told reporters. "There were expressions made by various members of the government about their desire to talk about nuclear energy but it was just not a subject that I was ... prepared to deal with," he said.

The visit by came just over a week after Bush visited Islamabad and signaled his government's opposition to providing assistance for Pakistan's nuclear program, days after he sealed a deal with rival India to support its atomic energy ambitions. Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons and have fought three wars since the bloody partition of the subcontinent at independence from Britain in 1947. A recent peace process has improved relations, but the two nations still consider each other rivals.

Despite his reluctance to discuss nuclear assistance, Bodman said he was in Pakistan to learn more about its "strategic" energy needs and ways to help the impoverished country pursue natural gas, water, coal and solar power generation. The Bush administration, however, has opposed a plan supported by both India and Pakistan to build a pipeline that would bring natural gas to the region from western Iran a nation the U.S. accuses of trying to build nuclear bombs.

"Our country has had and continues to have significant problems with Iran and we believe they seek to build a military arsenal based on nuclear weapons and we are trying to prevent that," Bodman said. Washington found it impossible "to lend support to a contractual relationship with Iran," he said, referring the planned India-Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline.

The United States opposes any major investments that benefit Tehran, but Pakistan and India have said they plan to go ahead with the project. Bodman's visit comes days before Pakistani and Indian officials are scheduled to travel to Iran for discussions on the pipeline and importing natural gas from Tehran. Iran proposed the 2,775-kilometer (1,735-mile) pipeline in 1996, but the project never got off the ground, mainly because of Indian concerns over its security in Pakistan, reports the AP.

N.U.