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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pakistan Refutes Ex-Minister's Nuclear Claim

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan reiterated Wednesday that it has no nuclear bomb despite former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's assertion that any attack on Pakistan by India could spark a nuclear war between them.

"In the course of its development of a peaceful nuclear program, Pakistan has acquired the capability to acquire nuclear weapons, but we have made a sovereign decision not to produce them," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

Sharif's statement, made at a rally in the Pakistani-held part of Kashmir on Tuesday, appeared to undermine Pakistan's long-standing denial that it possesses nuclear weapons.

Sharif was prime minister for 30 months until he resigned in July 1993. He is now leading a bitter campaign to topple Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

"I confirm Pakistan possesses the atomic bomb," the Pakistan Press International news agency quoted him as saying. An Indian attack on Pakistan could trigger "a nuclear holocaust as both countries possess atomic bombs," he said.

In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was unable to comment on whether Pakistan had an atom bomb because Islamabad does not allow inspections of its nuclear sites.

Pakistan, like India and Israel, has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or a safeguards accord that lets the IAEA verify an inventory of a state's declared nuclear materials. All three countries are members of the IAEA.

Bhutto has not commented on Sharif's remarks.

Defense Minister Aftab Shaban Mirani told the Frontier Post newspaper that Sharif's claim was "a childish act" by an irresponsible person making false statements.

Foreign Minister Aseff Ahmed Ali was quoted by The Muslim newspaper on Wednesday as saying: "We do not possess N-weapons and we have no intention of making one."

He said Sharif's remarks would damage his country's interests and would be exploited by India.

"They will use this to implicate Pakistan in the recent plutonium scandal," he said, referring to suspicions voiced by German authorities that Pakistan was involved in an alleged conspiracy to smuggle plutonium from Germany.

Pakistan last week denied any link to a plot to smuggle plutonium from Germany. Berlin police had said they had found evidence of planned or completed shipments of plutonium to Pakistan.

India, which also denies having a nuclear bomb, has not reacted to Sharif's statement but opposition members of parliament there demanded a government response.

A senior U.S. official in Washington said the United States believed both countries could assemble a nuclear weapon in a relatively short time.

Sharif has accused Bhutto of being soft towards India over disputed Kashmir and of trying to roll back Pakistan's nuclear program under U.S. pressure. Bhutto denies this and says Pakistan will not sign the NPT unless India does.