Clinton: U.S. Confident in Pakistan's Control Over Nuclear Weapons

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 11, 2009; 1:56 PM

LONDON, Oct. 11 -- Top U.S. and British officials said Sunday they believed that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were secure, after a stunning insurgent attack on the South Asian country's army headquarters.

"We have confidence in the Pakistani government and military's control over nuclear weapons," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said after a meeting with her British counterpart, David Miliband.

The leading suspects in the weekend attack in Rawalpindi are Pakistani insurgents allied with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The fact that the assailants wore army uniforms and made it into such a heavily guarded site raised questions about their infiltration of the armed forces.

The possibility of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of extremists is one of the worst national-security nightmares for the Obama administration.

Clinton and Miliband said the attack showed that Islamic militants were increasingly threatening the Pakistani government.

But Miliband said there was "no evidence that has been shown publicly or privately of any threat to the Pakistani nuclear facility."

Clinton met with Miliband and Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the second day of her five-day European trip. A major topic of discussion was strategy on Afghanistan, which is under review in Washington.

Britain has the second-biggest foreign military force in Afghanistan, with about 9,000 troops, and is about to announce an increase of 500 more, according to British press reports. The war has generated growing public opposition in Britain, as in the United States.

In her visit to London, Clinton also sought to emphasize that the "special relationship" with Britain is still special. British newspapers have suggested that President Obama has at times snubbed his counterpart, Gordon Blair, a claim that U.S. officials deny.

Clinton praised Britain for what she called its pivotal role in advancing a recent U.S.-authored United Nations resolution on nuclear disarmament. She also said British leadership had been important in confronting Iran on its nuclear program.

"The international agenda is broad and deep, and the United States and United Kingdom are partners working to advance our shared values on every front," she said.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company