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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 15009

Mrs Crosio asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 24 March 2003:

(1) Is the Government aware of any program by Pakistan to produce chemical or biological weapons.

(2) Considering Pakistan is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has successfully tested nuclear weapons as recently as 1998, is the Government concerned that this technology may, in some way, be obtained by terrorist organisations, in particular, Al-Qaeda.

(3) Has the Government sought assurances from the Government of Pakistan that all efforts have been made to ensure that nuclear weapons technology and material is not being traded, either with other states or with terrorist organisations.

(4) Is the Government confident that there are no longer any links between the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) and remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda; if so, what is the basis of this confidence; if not, why not.

(5) Is the Government aware of any ongoing trade in nuclear weapons technology and material between Pakistan and the Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea (PDRK); if so, what efforts is the Government taking to end this trade.

Mr Downer (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows :

(1) My Department is aware of public comments that Pakistan may be able to support a limited biological warfare research and development effort and has the ability to transition from research and development to chemical agent production. There is no evidence to confirm that Pakistan is producing chemical and biological weapons.

(2) The Government considers that the possession of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapon-related materials and technology, whether by a state inside or outside the NPT, carries with it responsibility of the highest order. Australia looks to all such states to implement the most stringent security procedures to cover nuclear and associated materials and technology to ensure they do not fall into the hands of terrorist organisations.

(3) The Government has raised this issue with the Government of Pakistan on several occasions and been provided assurances that Pakistan is committed to safeguarding its nuclear assets. The Government of Pakistan has stated publicly that it is not providing nuclear weapons technology or material to foreign states or to terrorist organisations.

(4) The Pakistan Government has been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism. The Australian Government particularly welcomes action taken by Pakistan to arrest senior al-Qaeda members, including most recently Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. Pakistan's support for the US-led coalition's campaign to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was also crucial to the success of that campaign. The campaign against terrorism, including against al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants, continues in Pakistan as it does in other countries.

(5) The Government is aware of press reports alleging the involvement of Pakistan in the DPRK's uranium enrichment program. Pakistani officials have denied any involvement in the DPRK nuclear program.