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Pak to launch new submarine for sea patrol

Karachi, Aug. 23 (Reuters): Pakistan will launch tomorrow the second of three Agosta Class submarines it and France have been building for the Pakistan Navy, the navy said.

“Induction of this new submarine in (the) Fleet will help maintain peace and stability in this volatile region, by deterring our main adversary from any kind of adventure,” the navy said, without naming rival India.

The intended roles of the Karachi-built Agosta Class submarine were “anti-submarine (warfare), anti-surface, intelligence gathering and sea patrol,” it said.

The vessel will be equipped with anti-ship missiles as well as torpedoes.

France built the first of the submarines, delivering it in 1998. But the $1.2 billion deal between the navy and French firms DCN and Thales SA provided for the second and third to be built in Pakistan with French help.

Pakistan also bought two Agosta Class submarines of an earlier version in 1978.

Tomorrow’s launch in Karachi is six months late, partly because the beginning of the US military campaign in neighbouring Afghanistan last year led the French companies, concerned about safety in Pakistan, to withdraw their staff.

The project was further delayed when some of the experts were murdered after returning to the volatile port city.

Pakistan and India, both nuclear armed, have been locked in an eight-month military stand-off over Kashmir.

The confrontation was triggered by an attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants.

The Pakistan Navy is expected to commission the third submarine from the construction programme by 2004.

Eleven French navy experts died on May 8 when a suicide bomber blew up the bus taking them to work on the project.

Islamic militants, angered by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s support for US-led war on terror, were suspected of being behind a series of attacks on Western and Christian targets in the mainly Muslim nation.

Pakistan earlier this month awarded its second highest civil honour, the Star of Pakistan, to the dead French naval engineers, while twelve other Frenchmen injured in the explosion received the third-ranked honour, the Medal of Pakistan “in recognition of their services to Pakistan.

US consulate reopens

The US consulate in the Pakistani city of Karachi, the target of a deadly bomb attack in June, has reopened at an undisclosed location, an American official said today.

“I can not disclose the new location because we are in a process of shifting,” US Consulate public affairs officer Lonnie Kelley said. He said the consulate reopened today, but people, initially, would only be able to reach it by telephone.

“It will not be a secret place...As soon as we settled there, we will give information about the place,” Kelley said.

A June 14 car bomb attack on the consulate killed 12 people and wounded 20, all of them Pakistanis.

It subsequently reopened, but closed again on August 5 due to security concerns after the local government reopened a nearby road to two-way traffic.

Kelley said the consulate had been moved because of those security concerns.

France closed its consulate in Karachi last month and Italy closed the visa section of its mission earlier this month, following a series of attacks on foreigners in Pakistan.

The attacks have included a car bombing in May in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers and three Pakistanis, and a grenade attack on the Protestant International Church in Islamabad that killed the wife and daughter of a US diplomat.

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