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Wikileaks report stokes anti-US hardliners in Pakistan

Wikileaks reports indicate that the US has mounted a secret effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani reactor since 2007, reinforcing what until now had been a conspiracy theory.

By Issam AhmedCorrespondent / November 29, 2010

The home page of the Wikileaks.org website is pictured on a computer in Hoboken, New Jersey, November 28. WikiLeaks released US State Department documents that gave candid views of foreign leaders and sensitive information on terrorism and nuclear proliferation

Gary Hershorn/Reuters

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Lahore, Pakistan

Long derided in liberal Pakistani circles as a fanciful conspiracy theory, the notion that the US has designs on Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal will likely gain traction here following a report that the US has mounted a secret effort to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani reactor since 2007.

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The report, based on a leaked cable released by Wikleaks, was first carried in The New York Times, though the full text has not yet been released.

The perception that America is attempting to rob Pakistan of its nuclear capability has long been touted by Islamists and hardliners in Pakistan, and is frequently brought up alongside the theory that the security firm Xe (formerly known as Blackwater) is responsible for a spate of suicide bomb attacks on civilian targets over the past few years. The US, for its part, has been keenly aware of the sensitivity of the issue, so much so that in May 2009, Ambassador Anne Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts for fear of stoking the Pakistani media’s suspicions.

WikiLeaks: Leaked cables reveal the rough workings of diplomacy

Boon to hardliners

According to security analyst Gen. (ret.) Talat Masood, the WikiLeaks revelations will prove a boon to hardliners in Pakistan.

“It really reinforces [what until now] has been a conspiracy theory – that America has always been after nuclear assets and gives a big handle to the right and those who have been saying America is not a our friend and saying they are following a dual policy: with India they are friends but with Pakistan they are trying to simultaneously undermine us.”

General Masood predicts the WikiLeaks cable report will have a serious short-term and long-term impact on US-Pakistan relations, and undermine those Pakistanis who have spoken up in favor of closer cooperation with the US in recent times.

“It places such people on the defensive – it looks like the US is trying to get close to Pakistanis who are more Westernized but who are compromising Pakistan’s national interest,” he says.

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