| Girls look for Id greeting cards in Karachi on Tuesday. (AP/PTI)
Mexico City, Nov. 26 (Reuters): US secretary of state Colin Powell said today he has told Pakistan there would be “consequences” if it had contacts with North Korea but said he knew of nothing now that could trigger sanctions on Pakistan over allegations that it aided North Korea’s nuclear programme.
“In my conversations with (Pakistani) President (Pervez) Musharraf in recent months, I have made it clear to him that any, any sort of contact between Pakistan and North Korea we believe would be improper, inappropriate and would have consequences,” Powell told reporters.
“And he has assured me on more than one occasion that there are no further contacts and he guarantees that there are no contacts of the kind that were referred to in the article,” he added as he flew to Mexico at the start of a two-day visit.
Pakistan has strongly denied a recent New York Times report which said Pyongyang had provided Pakistan with missile parts for Musharraf to build missiles to allow delivery of his nuclear arsenal to “every strategic site in India.”
In return, the newspaper has reported, Islamabad provided North Korea with designs for gas centrifuges and machinery needed to make highly enriched uranium for the country’s latest nuclear weapons project.
The North Koreans told US officials in October that they had a secret uranium enrichment project for making nuclear weapons, in violation of a 1994 accord with the United States.
Despite Pakistan’s reported role in Pyongyang’s programme, there is no indication US President George W. Bush or the Republican-led Congress plan to impose sanctions or any other punishment on the South Asian nation, which is a key ally in the US-led war on terrorism in neighbouring Afghanistan.
“Right now I have nothing presently that has been reported to me that I need to be looking at,” said Powell when asked about the possibility that Pakistan’s contacts with North Korea could trigger sanctions under US law.
“And with respect to the past, I don’t know of anything that might be going on at the department that is relevant to any sanctions discussion with Congress,” Powell said.
“President Musharraf understands the seriousness of this issue,” Powell said, adding their conversations have taken place face-to-face and over the telephone.
Musharraf, who has formally handed power to a civilian government in Pakistan after three years at the helm, is a key ally of the United States in its campaign against the Taliban, al Qaida and its leader Osama bin Laden.
Musharraf has allowed US forces to operate out of an air base in Pakistan and there are United States military and intelligence personnel hunting al Qaeda and Taliban operatives inside Pakistan, close to the Afghan border.