Tue, Nov 30, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan tests nuclear-capable missile

FIRE IN THE SKY Pakistan's government says test-firing a new version of its short-range Ghazanvi missile was mere routine and all its neighbors had been notified


Pakistan test-fired a new version of its short-range, nuclear-capable missile yesterday, officials said, in the latest round of tit-for-tat launches with neighboring India despite recent peace overtures.

"We have test-fired this missile to check its latest design,'' army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said.

He insisted the test of the Ghazanvi missile will have no negative impact on the peace process with Pakistan's rival, India, which had no immediate comment on the launch.

"Not at all," Sultan said.

The military said Pakistan's neighbors, including India, had been notified of the test in advance. India and Pakistan routinely test missiles.

President General Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz congratulated scientists for giving Pakistan the missile and "making its defense impregnable," another military official said on condition of anonymity.

He said more such tests will be carried out in the coming days.

The military issued a statement saying the Ghazanvi has already been added to the army's "strategic command," and that "Pakistan's nuclear and missile program will maintain the pace of development, and tests will continue to be conducted as per technical needs."

Sultan said the launch was "part of a series of tests planned to be conducted in order to verify certain parameters and to further refine different systems of the missile."

"The flight data collected indicates that all the design parameters have been successfully validated," he said.

A third senior defense official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the surface-to-surface Ghazanvi has a range of 290km and was created "indigenously."

It was the third test of the Ghazanvi missile. India has said technology for the missile was given to Islamabad by China or North Korea in the 1990s.

Just six weeks ago, Pakistan tested its Ghauri V missile, which has a range of 1,500km, making it capable of hitting many Indian cities. Officials at that time said the test was not intended as a message to New Delhi.

India on Friday test-fired a surface-to-air short-range missile on the coast of eastern Orissa state.

Pakistan's latest test comes days after Aziz traveled to India and met with his counterpart Manmohan Singh to discuss outstanding issues, including their long and bitter territorial dispute over Kashmir.

Divided between Pakistan and India but claimed in entirety by both, Kashmir has triggered two of the rivals' three wars since 1947, when they gained independence from Britain.

Both countries have agreed in recent months to resolve their disputes through negotiations.

Pakistan became a declared nuclear power on May 28, 1998, when it conducted underground nuclear tests in response to those carried out by India. It tested its first missile the same year.

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