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US calls for restraint on n-arms, NSA to visit Pakistan

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Washington: As tensions between India and Pakistan continue to escalate, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice is expected to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday, media reported on Saturday. The US, earlier, called for restraint in developing nuclear weapons and expressed concern over recent developments as well as rising tensions between the neighboring countries. During the visit, Rice is also expected to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and her counterpart Sartaj Aziz. Rice is also expected to meet Pakistan’s political and military leadership over bilateral relations and the regional security situation, Dawn reported. A top military source also confirmed a separate meeting with the army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, where the regional security situation is likely to be discussed.

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Earlier, the US warned that speculation about the potential use of such weapons will not help reduce tensions between India and Pakistan, media reported. At a news briefing, US State Department spokesman John Kirby on Friday stressed the need for exercising restraint in developing nuclear weapons. “Obviously, we continue to urge all nuclear-capable states, including Pakistan, to exercise restraint regarding furthering their nuclear capabilities,” he said. He refused to get dragged into a media debate, claiming that some Pakistani officials had threatened to use the nuclear option if the current situation in South Asia led to an armed conflict with India. “I haven’t seen those comments, so I’d be loath to specifically address them,” Kirby said, “what we want to see are the tensions decrease”.
Asked if the US was working with Pakistan to bring it into the mainstream on the nuclear issue, Kirby said: “Obviously, these kinds of matters are matters we discuss with Pakistani leaders on a routine basis. “The nuclear issue, he said, was something that the US would continue to focus on, as it was consistent with President Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons. Kirby said the US regularly held discussions with Pakistani officials on the country’s nuclear program but he refused to comment on a US think-tank report that Pakistan would have the third-largest nuclear stockpiles after the US and Russia in a decade. “I’m not going to have anything substantive to offer on the report’s findings,” he said.

The think tank report released on Thursday said that Pakistan should have the rights and obligations of a nuclear-weapon state recognized by the NPT. Countries recognized as nuclear-weapon states by the members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are allowed to keep their weapons in return for meeting certain obligations.”It is in Pakistan’s national security interests and the interests of the international community to find ways in which Pakistan can enjoy the rights and follow the obligations of other nuclear-weapon states recognized by the NPT,” says the paper released by two think tanks, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Stimson Centre.

(IANS)

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US-Taliban Meeting Cancelled, 14 Members on “The US and UN Blacklist”

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

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US, Taliban, Pakistan
FILE - Taliban political chief Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanikzai, in the first row, second from left, Abdul Salam Hanafi and other Taliban officials pray during the intra-Afghan talks in Moscow, Feb. 6, 2019. VOA

An upcoming meeting in Pakistan between a delegation of the United States and Taliban representatives has been cancelled, according to information coming from both sides.

A Taliban leader confirmed, on condition of anonymity, that the meeting was cancelled, “by the Americans.” A Taliban statement issued later in the day said the talks were postponed because many members of its 14 person negotiating team were unable to go overseas since they are on “the US and UN blacklist.” Several of them are on the U.N. Security Council sanctions list which bars them from international travel.

Meanwhile, a U.S. official said Zalmay Khalilzad, who was supposed to lead the American delegation, is not planning to visit Islamabad this week.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, center, speaks during a roundtable discussion with Afghan media at the U.S Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The U.S. said it had not received an official invitation from the government of Pakistan for this meeting which was first announced by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid a couple of days ago.

Mujahid’s statement had set February 18 as the date of the talks and said a formal invitation had been issued by Pakistan. In addition, he said, the Taliban delegation would also meet the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A day later, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the talks during a press conference, calling it a “game changer.”

“The next round of negotiations with the Taliban will be in Pakistan, and as a result of these negotiations, there is a chance of stability in Afghanistan,” he said.

US, China, Taliban
FILE – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (R) speaks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (3rd L) during a meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Islamabad, Pakistan, in this handout photo released Jan. 18, 2018. VOA

Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry reacted strongly to the announcement of a meeting in Islamabad, saying it was in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

“#Afghanistan complains to #UNSecurityCouncil on #Pakistan’s engagements with the Taliban on which #Afg Govenrment is not consulted,” Tweeted Sibghatullah Admadi, a spokesman for the Afghan foreign office.

Previously, Afghanistan launched a similar complaint against Russia for allowing Taliban members to travel to Moscow for a conference in which nearly 50 Afghans, including various political leaders, former jihadi commanders, and civil society activists were invited. However, the Afghan government was not invited to that conference because the Taliban have so far refused to engage with the Kabul administration despite pressure from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others.

President Ashraf Ghani lashed out at those attending the conference saying they had no “executive authority” to make any agreements.

“Let hundreds of such meetings be held,” he said.

Some analysts say Ghani’s statements indicated his frustration at being left out of the negotiations between the Americans and the Taliban that first started last Summer. Since then, the two sides have held several rounds of talks.

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The last meeting in Doha early January lasted for six days and Khalilzad said the two sides had agreed “in principle” to a withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in return for guarantees that Afghan soil will not be used by any terrorist groups or individuals.

Speaking in a public event at Washington based United States Institute of Peace, Khalilzad said the Taliban do not want to “sit with the government alone” because they did not want to give President Ghani an advantage in the presidential elections scheduled in July.

“There are indications that they will be willing to sit with the government in a multi-party arrangement,” he said. (VOA)