America swift to impose sanctions

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The Independent Online
THE US moved quickly to impose sanctions on Pakistan yesterday, after the announcement that it had tested five nuclear devices.

The financial measures will hit the smaller, more internationally dependent Pakistani economy much harder than parallel sanctions hit India.

Bill Clinton spoke to Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani Prime Minister, late on Wednesday night and begged him not to test, the White House said. America also sent diplomats to the country in an effort to persuade Pakistan not to follow India down the nuclear road. But officials had said privately that they expected the tests, and would have little alternative but to apply sanctions to a country that was a close Cold War ally of America.

"We have no choice but to impose sanctions," Clinton said yesterday, underlining that "two wrongs don't make a right".

"I deplore the decision," he said, adding that Pakistan had thrown away a "truly priceless opportunity" to receive greater US economic and security assistance. Officials had noted before the tests that with domestic pressure rising after the Indian tests, it would have required an act of great statesmanship and enormous political courage for the government not to go ahead with its own response. The White House indicated some understanding for Mr Sharif's position, saying that Clinton "has great respect" for him.

The sanctions included a cut-off in US aid and a suspension of official backing for international lending, blocking an estimated $2bn in funding. Pakistan is at present the recipient of a $1.3bn loan from the IMF, the next tranche of which is up for discussion in coming weeks.

Though there are no outstanding World Bank loans under consideration, Pakistan is highly dependent on international credit flows, and the result is likely to be an emergency package of austerity measures. India suffered similar sanctions, and earlier this week the World Bank suspended lending to New Delhi. But India's economy is larger, healthier and more self-sufficient.

US intelligence - which failed to spot the Indian tests - warned on Tuesday that the conditions for a test were in place.