Pakistan renews demand for civilian nuclear cooperation with U.S.

Pakistan's foreign minister on Tuesday renewed a demand to the United States to provide it with assistance in nuclear power generation, following a U.S. deal with archrival India on civilian nuclear cooperation, the Foreign Ministry said.

Khursheed Kasuri was speaking in a meeting with top regional U.S. State Department official Richard Boucher about the U.S. agreement with India, a ministry statement said.

"He (Kasuri) underlined the need for a package approach that would prevent an arms race, promote restraint and address legitimate civil nuclear energy needs of Pakistan," the statement said, quoting Kasuri as making a call for U.S. cooperation in producing nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

Boucher, who arrived in Pakistan on a two-day tour earlier Tuesday, was on his first visit to the region since he replaced Christina Rocca as U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia.

The statement did not say whether Boucher made any comment in response to Kasuri's plea.

Last month, President George W. Bush, during a visit to India and Pakistan in which he approved the nuclear cooperation deal with New Delhi, turned down Islamabad's plea for similar assistance form the United States.

Pakistan and India which both carried out nuclear tests in 1998 share a history of bitter relations. Both countries are seeking energy from various sources owing to their growing economies.

Under the March 2 agreement, Washington would share nuclear technology with New Delhi but India must separate its military and civilian nuclear facilities.

The U.S. Congress is considering a bill seeking exemption for India from U.S. laws that restrict trade with countries that have not submitted to full nuclear inspections.

New Delhi has refused to sign the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and conform to its inspection regime.

Pakistan has objected to the U.S. move, saying the U.S. plan would encourage India to peruse its nuclear weapons program without any "constraint or inhibition."

Pakistan is an ally of the United States in fighting radical Islamic militants and its security forces have captured about 700 al-Qaida suspects including several senior terror figures, reports AP.

O.Ch.