Pakistani president- Nuclear war unlikely

Sunday, June 2, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's president, stopping short of matching India's pledge not to use nuclear weapons first, said Saturday "any sane individual" would not allow tensions between the two nations to escalate into a nuclear war.

However, the growing fear of a wider conflict between the nations prompted the United Nations on Saturday to tell its staffers in the region to send their families home. France, Israel and South Korea also joined the list of nations advising their citizens to leave the region as the South Asian neighbors continued shelling each other along their border, killing at least eight people.

In an interview with CNN, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said nuclear conflict was unthinkable. He also restated his willingness to negotiate with India.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to mediate during next week's regional summit in Kazakhstan to be attended by Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. India's defense minister said Saturday there was no sign of a reconciliation with Pakistan.

India has demanded that Pakistan first stop cross-border incursions by Islamic militants blamed by New Delhi for two major terrorist attacks over the last six months.

Musharraf told CNN that Pakistan has called for a no-war pact with India and the denuclearization of South Asia. He was asked about the possibility that the current situation could escalate into nuclear war.

"I don't think either side is that irresponsible to go to that limit," Musharraf said. "I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn't even be discussing these things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war, whatever the pressures."

Concern about Pakistan using nuclear weapons stems from the fact that Pakistan has a much smaller military than India. India has a policy of not using nuclear weapons first in a conflict.

But concern still mounted about a broader military conflict as neither country offered a diplomatic solution to end their long dispute over Kashmir, the spark for two of their three wars.

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