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Pakistan gets power plant deal

October 19, 2008|From the Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Pakistan said Saturday that China would help build two more nuclear power plants in the energy-starved Muslim nation, tightening the bonds between the two countries as rising militant violence in Pakistan strains its anti-terrorism alliance with the United States.

The nuclear agreement was among a dozen economic cooperation accords signed last week during President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Beijing, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.

Although Qureshi gave few details, enhanced cooperation with China probably will help ease Pakistan's resentment of a recent deal allowing U.S. businesses to sell nuclear fuel, technology and reactors to India.

U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who held talks Saturday in Islamabad, have rejected Pakistani calls for equal treatment, in light of Pakistan's history of leaking nuclear secrets.

The China-Pakistan deal comes as Russia is helping to build a nuclear plant in Iran. That means the U.S., China and Russia have each established a nuclear foothold in a strategic country in the region stretching from the Persian Gulf to South Asia.

Chinese leaders "recognize Pakistan's need, and China is one country that at international forums has clearly spoken against the discriminatory nature" of the U.S.-India pact, Qureshi said at a news conference in Islamabad, the capital.

China, a major investor and arms supplier for Pakistan, shares Islamabad's fierce regional rivalry with India.

China has helped Pakistan build a nuclear power plant at Chashma, about 125 miles southwest of the capital. Work on a second nuclear plant is in progress and is expected to be completed in 2011.

Qureshi did not say whether there are measures in place to prevent nuclear materials from the new plants from being diverted to Pakistan's atomic weapons program.

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