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Pakistan Test-Fires New Missile, Sources Say

Asia: The action appears to be in response to India's launch Sunday. The Ghauri II has a range of 1,200 miles.

April 14, 1999|From Times Wire Services

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan test-fired a ballistic missile today that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and hitting deep inside its uneasy neighbor India, intelligence sources said.

The Ghauri II, an advanced version of a previously tested ballistic missile, has a range of 1,200 miles, making it the longest-range missile in Pakistan's arsenal.

The test was not a surprise, with analysts anticipating Pakistan would respond to a missile test conducted Sunday by India, its rival in South Asia.

Meanwhile, in India today, a key partner announced its withdrawal from the nation's ruling coalition, stripping it of its majority in parliament and pushing it to the verge of collapse after just 13 months in office.

Jayalalitha Jayaram, head of a powerful regional party from south India, notified India's ceremonial president of her decision to end her support of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's multiparty coalition.

According to reports in Pakistani newspapers, India was notified Tuesday of Pakistan's plans to test-fire the missile, in line with an agreement the prime ministers of the two countries signed in February.

The agreement was signed as part of a package to reduce tensions between the neighbors, both of whom exploded underground nuclear devices last year.

With the underground tests, India and Pakistan declared themselves nuclear powers--generating fears that the next step would be the development of a nuclear weapons arsenal.

Pakistan says it doesn't want to embark on an arms race, but won't be left behind if India begins developing nuclear arms.

The Indian government's test-firing Sunday of a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to targets in China and Pakistan was seen as a provocation.

The test of the missile, named the Agni II, came almost a year after the Indian government stunned the world by testing five nuclear warheads. Those tests prompted Pakistan to test its own nuclear warheads, and a prolonged international crisis ensued.

India's test Sunday angered U.S. officials, who had been urging India and Pakistan to restrain the arms race between them. A cessation of missile tests has been one of the conditions set down by the U.S. for a lifting of economic sanctions imposed after the nuclear tests.

The two countries have fought three wars in the past five decades, and their new nuclear status has caused many world leaders to express a fear that another confrontation between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear war.

The distance covered in today's launch put most Indian cities within range of the missile, an updated version of a missile Pakistan first test-fired one year ago.

The sources said that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who shunned Western appeals not to match India's trial, was expected to announce to the nation that Pakistan would test the full range of the missile with a test over the ocean at an undisclosed date in the future.

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