NEW YORK, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan last year expressed worries Pakistani nuclear materials could fall into militants' hands, a cable released by Wikileaks reveals.
The New York Times reported Tuesday Anne W. Patterson's cable outlining her concerns was sent less than a month after President Barack Obama had assured reporters Pakistan's stockpile of nuclear materials were secure.
She said in the May 27, 2009, cable she was concerned Pakistani leaders were dragging their feet on their agreement to let the United States remove a stockpile of highly enriched uranium that has been sitting for years near an aging research nuclear reactor that could provide enough material to build several "dirty bombs" or even a nuclear bomb.
The Times said the memo indicated the Pakistani government had decided "the 'sensational' international and local media coverage of Pakistan's nuclear weapons made it impossible to proceed at this time." Patterson said a senior Pakistani official had warned if word got out Americans were helping remove the nuclear fuel, the media there would "certainly portray it as it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons."
The cable was among hundreds of thousands obtained by WikiLeaks and released to select news organizations, including the Times.
The cables reveal the vulnerability of Pakistan's civilian government, the Times said, with one stating Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told U.S. Vice President Joe Biden he feared the military might "take me out."
The cables also revealed Pakistan's cooperation with clandestine U.S. military forays into that country. The Pakistani army allowed a dozen U.S. troops to deploy with Pakistani troops in the country's tribal area near the Afghan border last fall.
The embassy cabled that the deployments had to be secret or the "Pakistani military will likely stop making requests for such assistance."