NATIONAL

Missile tests may fuel arms race: U.S.

Washington Oct. 5. The Bush administration has said that it is disappointed with the missile tests taking place in South Asia and fears that a missile race would further threaten regional and international security. ``I would repeat what we have said in the past, that we're disappointed that ballistic missile tests are occurring in the region. There is a charged atmosphere in the region and these tests can contribute to that atmosphere, make it harder to prevent a costly and destabilising nuclear and missile arms race. A race like that would be a further threat to regional and international security'', the State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher said.

``We've continued to urge both Pakistan and India to take steps to restrain their nuclear weapon and missile programmes, including no operational deployment of nuclear armed ballistic missiles and to begin a dialogue on confidence-building measures that could reduce the likelihood that such weapons would ever be used. This could be a part of a broader dialogue to reduce tensions in the region'', Mr. Boucher added.

In Ottawa, the Canadian Foreign Minister, Bill Graham, expressed regret at Pakistan's testing of the Shaheen-1 short range ballistic missile and urged Islamabad to abide by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172.

``Canada deeply regrets that Pakistan has once again chosen to test a ballistic missile, particularly at a time when tensions with India remain high...this exercise only serves to aggravate regional tensions and to complicate serious efforts being undertaken by the international community to find a peaceful solution to this very worrisome situation'', Mr. Graham said in a statement.

Meanwhile on the ongoing violence in Kashmir, the administration has said that the attempt of the extremists to disrupt the polls in Kashmir is ``absolutely unacceptable'' and reiterated support for free and fair elections without outside interference and violence. ``...we've always noted that elections in Kashmir alone cannot solve the problems between India and Pakistan, but they are an important step towards a broader political process. And successful elections could pave the way for early resumption of diplomatic dialogue between India and Pakistan, and we will continue to encourage that'', the State Department's deputy spokesman, Philip Reeker said at the Washington Foreign Press Centre.

On the infiltration, Mr. Reeker took the position that he did not have ``any particular new information to share'',in the process making the point that infiltrations were continuing at lower levels than earlier this year. ``...following President Musharraf's assurances in May that support for infiltration across the Line of Control would be ended permanently, infiltration did decrease and there have been indications that it is continuing. It is, we believe, at lower levels than earlier this year. We obviously continue to monitor that very closely'', the senior State Department official said.

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