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China lends nuclear hand to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, October 18 – Energy-hungry Pakistan said on Saturday that China had agreed to help it build two more nuclear power plants in a major boost to the country\’s long-term plans to end crippling electricity shortages.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced the deal after President Asif Ali Zardari returned from a four-day state visit to China, which Qureshi said had been "very significant."

Pakistan, which already has one Chinese-built nuclear power station and another under construction, would benefit from an extra 680 megawatts of energy from the two extra plants, he said without giving further details.

The government has an "energy security plan" envisaging an increase in nuclear power generation from the current 425 megawatts to 8,800 megawatts by 2030 to meet its growing energy demands.

China is one of Islamabad\’s closest allies as well as its largest arms supplier.

Pakistan\’s nuclear weapons programme has been under the spotlight since a 2004 confession by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of its nuclear programme, that he sold atomic secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Khan was pardoned by then president Pervez Musharraf in 2004 but has been kept at his Islamabad villa ever since, guarded by troops and intelligence agents.

Pakistan has rejected international demands for access to Khan.

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