Pakistan confirms Wikileaks claim of US nuclear appeals

File picture from November 2008 shows Saudi King Abdullah (R) meeting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Riyadh The leaks also claim the Saudi king called President Zardari the greatest obstacle to Pakistan's progress

Pakistan has confirmed to the BBC claims by Wikileaks that the US had wanted nuclear fuel taken away from a reactor, citing security fears.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said they rejected US attempts to have the highly enriched uranium removed.

The online whistle-blower also reveals unflattering comments about Pakistan's President Asif Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

And more details emerge of an alleged CIA abduction of an innocent German.

Thousands of extracts from US diplomatic messages have been published by the New York Times, France's Le Monde, Britain's Guardian newspaper, German magazine Der Spiegel and others.

'Untrustworthy and fickle'

They suggest the US requested highly enriched uranium be handed over from Pakistan's oldest nuclear reactor.

Start Quote

The US has been asking for the last two years that we should return the reactor and the fuel which had been given - we dismissed this ”

End Quote Abdul Basit Pakistan foreign ministry

According to the classified cables, US Ambassador Anne Patterson reportedly informed the state department in May 2009 that Pakistan was refusing to allow American technical experts to visit.

Islamabad foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said the Wikileaks disclosure was highly irresponsible.

But he confirmed that US authorities had asked for fuel to be returned from a reactor, citing security fears.

The facility is in Karachi and was built through the US Atoms for Peace programme under President Dwight Eisenhower.

Mr Basit told the BBC: "The US has been asking for the last two years that we should return the reactor and the fuel which had been given.

"We dismissed this, reiterating that the reactor was our property, so there was no question of it being returned."

US officials have long expressed concern that Islamist militants in Pakistan could target the country's nuclear programme in an attempt to get their hands on the materials to build their own bomb.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says the Wikileaks disclosures reveal how the US continues to regard Pakistan as an untrustworthy and fickle ally.

'Rotten head'

The leak is sure to raise hackles across the country's political spectrum, he adds.

Analysis

The mood in the Afghan presidency was good, one palace insider told me. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called in advance to tell people what to expect.

We feel OK "because we are part of a large community of victims," said one senior official. That was putting a brave face on it.

President Hamid Karzai was described as having a paranoid world view in one cable. One British diplomat who had met the Afghan leader many times told me he shared the American assessment - Mr Karzai saw plots everywhere, especially in negative coverage of him in the media (which he believed was orchestrated by Western intelligence agencies).

The Afghan leader even blamed the British and US governments for the drugs trade, said the diplomat, because he believed they had the forces in the south to stop it if they wanted to.

President Karzai may see confirmation of his fears in the now published assessment of his personality. He and the Americans have little choice but to deal with each other.

Mr Basit, however, said the leaks would not significantly alter Pakistan's international relationships.

Our correspondent says the foreign ministry spokesman was alluding to disparaging comments about Pakistan's president by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabian king reportedly called Mr Zardari the greatest obstacle to the country's progress, the New York Times said.

"When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body," the newspaper quoted King Abdullah as saying.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar dismissed the report.

"President Zardari regards Saudi King Abdullah as his elder brother," he told the BBC.

"The so-called leaks are no more than an attempt to create misperceptions between two important and brotherly Muslim countries".

Another cable reportedly described Afghan President Karzai as "extremely weak" and prone to being persuaded by conspiracy theories.

The disclosures reveal how a senior Afghan official was found to be carrying more than $52m (£33m) in cash on a foreign trip when stopped during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

And Wikileaks reveals that Germany was warned in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for the CIA officers involved in the operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same name as a suspected militant was abducted and held in Afghanistan.

The Guardian, meanwhile, reports that the cables contain details of how US commanders, President Karzai and local officials in Helmand criticised the British military for failure to impose security around the town of Sangin in southern Afghanistan.

The US has led worldwide condemnation of the huge data leak, with one congressman calling for Wikileaks to be designated a terrorist organisation.

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