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Reagan Warns Pakistani: Build Nuclear Bomb and Lose U.S. Aid

July 17, 1986|ELEANOR CLIFT | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan warned visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo on Wednesday that the United States will be forced to sever all economic and military aid if his country develops an atomic bomb and fuels the nuclear arms race in South Asia, an Administration official told reporters.

Reagan and other top officials had "a very serious, substantive exchange on that issue" when they met here with Junejo and concluded "there's good reason to believe" that U.S. assistance has served as "a significant brake" on Pakistan's nuclear program, the official said.

In a luncheon at the State Department, Junejo said he supports Reagan's policy of nuclear non-proliferation, but he added that the introduction of arms into South Asia is "not of our making."

India, Pakistan's archenemy, exploded a nuclear device in 1974, but it maintains that it opposes the use of nuclear weapons and does not possess any. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi has resisted considerable internal pressure to resume a nuclear arms program.

At a White House welcoming ceremony, Reagan praised Pakistan for "courageously standing in opposition to Soviet aggression in the region." He said Pakistan has endured an increasing number of attacks from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan as a result of its support for the rebel forces there.

Reagan said that Pakistan has been "admirable in its generosity" toward the nearly 3 million Afghans who have fled their country, the largest refugee population in the world.

Also on the agenda during Junejo's first official visit to the United States was Pakistan's recent surge in opium production, which appears to have doubled this year to between 100 and 140 tons. The increase poses "a serious threat to not only our two societies, but to civilized societies everywhere," the official said, speaking on the condition he not be identified.

Reaffirms U.S. Commitment

Junejo expressed an interest in using helicopters for aerial spraying of drug crops, the official said, but the discussion did not include any action involving American military personnel. The Administration sent U.S. helicopters and troops to Bolivia this week at the request of the Bolivian government to mount attacks on drug-processing laboratories.

Reagan called Pakistan's recent lifting of martial rule and its adoption of a constitutional form of government "amazing," especially in the context of the additional burdens created by the spillover of the war in Afghanistan.

Reagan reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Pakistan, a nonaligned nation that he said has been "unwillingly thrust into the role of a front-line state" because of its proximity to war-torn Afghanistan.

Reagan pledged that the United States and Pakistan "stand together in the interest of peace, stability and progress in southern Asia and throughout the world." The Administration has used Pakistan to funnel arms and aid to the Afghan rebels, whom Reagan referred to as "valiant freedom fighters."

Although he has less power than President Zia ul-Haq, Junejo is responsible for managing Pakistan's changeover from martial law to constitutional government. Reagan's early invitation to Junejo was an effort to show support for progress toward democracy.

The Administration's commitment to Pakistan's security, which was highlighted in Reagan's welcoming remarks at the White House, was designed to warn the Soviet Union not to widen its war beyond Afghanistan to neighboring Pakistan. In the first six months of 1986, Reagan said, there were more attacks on Pakistan's territory than in all of 1985.

The 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan have strained the government's economic resources and become a target for terrorist bombings and cross-border shellings. The United States has provided $3.2 billion in economic and military aid to Pakistan since 1981, with the bulk of the assistance going toward the purchase of 40 F-16 fighter jets.

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