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Pakistan's Musharraf says nukes are safe

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf assured the world Saturday that his country's nuclear arsenal was in "safe hands."

"Pakistan is fully alive to the responsibilities of its nuclear status," Musharraf said on the opening day of the annual General Assembly debate.

"Let me assure you all that our strategic assets are well guarded and in safe hands," he said.

According to the Washington Post, Musharraf ordered an emergency redeployment of the country's nuclear arsenal to at least six new secret locations and has reorganized military oversight of the nuclear forces in the weeks since Pakistan joined the U.S. campaign against terrorism.

The new Strategic Planning Division is headed by a three-star general to oversee operations of Pakistan's nuclear forces, according to the Post. This decision, not previously disclosed, was part of last month's shuffle of the top military and intelligence leadership just hours before the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began on Oct. 7. The shakeup was designed to sideline officers considered too sympathetic to the Taliban or other extremist religious factions.

Also on Saturday, Musharraf, when asked about Osama bin Laden's claim that he possesses nuclear and chemical weapons, said he did not believe he did.

"I have no such information. Purely on judgment, I can't imagine he could be having nuclear weapons" and the delivery systems that go with them, Musharraf said.

Last month, two Pakistani scientists questioned about their links with the Taliban regime were released after authorities determined that they were not involved in Afghanistan's weapons program.

Musharraf also said Saturday that he was willing to discuss with neighboring India ways to reduce nuclear tensions in South Asia, which has the world's newest and, according to some experts, riskiest nuclear arsenal. Pakistan conducted unannounced nuclear tests in 1998 following similar tests by India.

"Pakistan is opposed to an arms race in South Asia, be it nuclear or conventional," he said.