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The Radiating Charms of Southwest Asia

Has Southwest Asia’s nuclear potential been forgotten with Iraq in the forefront?

October 31, 2002

Has Southwest Asia's nuclear potential been forgotten with Iraq in the forefront?

The world is becoming a stranger place everyday. Here are some of my reasons why:

Is Russia planning to nuke Chechnya, or Riyadh? The full text of President Vladimir Putin's tough new policy on dealing with terrorists after the Moscow siege is raising diplomatic eyebrows.

“International terrorism is increasingly impudent and cruel. Threats to use means comparable to weapons of mass destruction are being made in various places of the world.

"If anyone tries to apply such means to our country, Russia will reply with measures adequate to the threats in all the locations of the terrorists, their organizations or their ideological and financial instigators,” the president said, according to the official transcript released by Interfax.

The Russian text was even more clear in saying Russia that would respond to weapons of mass destruction with its own weapons of mass destruction.

Here comes another juicy target for al-Qaeda. Li Dingfan, chief of China’s nuclear program, confirmed that China is to help Pakistan build a third nuclear power station near the remote eastern Punjab, according to Ashfaq Ahmad, head of Pakistan’s Strategic Program and one of the leaders of its nuclear project.

“We have energy problems so we want to enhance the contribution of nuclear energy,” Ahmad said. The new plant will be Pakistan's third. The second plant, now functioning at Chashma, 225 km southwest of Islamabad, was built in the 1990s with Chinese assistance.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, in Saudi Arabia for a friendly visit with King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah, is carefully shoring up his Islamist credentials after the surprise success of the religious parties during Pakistan's 'election' this month.

It is not the right time of year for the Haj, the formal pilgrimage to the seat of the Muslim faith at Mecca. So Musharraf has arranged to perform the lesser rite known as 'umra' instead.

Also requiring a visit to the Mecca shrine, it means bathing and dressing in the formal white clothing, then walking around the Ka'ba seven times repeating prayers, and walking back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times.

Diplomatic circles in the Middle East are buzzing with rumors of a failed coup against the Qatari regime on the night of October 13.

At least two members of the royal familyt are said to have joined with officers of Yemeni and Pakistani background, along with individuals from Islamic organizations, all opposed to the growing U.S. military presence.

American troops stationed at the Al Udeid airbase supposedly helped thwart the coup attempt, which had been penetrated in advance by Qatar security officials, after which 140 people were arrested.

The rumors go on to suggest that Qatar suspects that the Saudis were behind the plot. The US has been feverishly upgrading the Al Udeid base, in anticipation of a Saudi refusal to allow use of its Prince Sultan airbase for the upcoming assault on Iraq.

There is no confirmation for these coup rumors, but Wednesday's Gulf News carried an interesting editorial that said: "Disagreements are normal, be they between people or countries.

“If handled in a civilised manner, disagreements can only strengthen relationships. Adversity is another great healer of rifts. Faced by a common outside threat, people and countries band together to present a front that is as strong as its cohesiveness. Sadly these truths do not often hold good in the Middle East."