By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam
KARACHI, Pakistan, (Reuters) -Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Saturday he had summoned the U.S. ambassador after President Joe Biden questioned the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
In a speech on Thursday, Biden said Pakistan is “maybe one of the most dangerous nations in the world” as it has “nuclear weapons without any cohesion”.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said he was surprised by the comments. “As far as the question of the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear assets are concerned, we meet all – each and every – international standard in accordance with the IAEA,” he said at a press conference on Saturday.
A transcript of Biden’s speech was published by the White House on its website.
Bhutto-Zardari said he didn’t think the decision to summon the U.S. ambassador would negatively affect relations with the United States, and said officials could address any specific concerns Washington had on the nuclear programme.
“The United States regularly meets with Pakistani officials.” A U.S. State Department spokesperson in Washington told Reuters in a statement, adding: “As standard practice, we do not comment on the specifics of private diplomatic conversations.”
Ties between Islamabad and Washington, once close allies, have just started to warm after some years of frosty relations, mostly due to concerns about Pakistan’s alleged support of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies this support.
The foreign minister said worries about Pakistan’s nuclear programme were not raised on his recent trip to Washington, where he held extensive meetings, including at the State Department.
(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Ros Russell and Sandra Maler)