LOS ANGELES (AP) - Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta said Monday that the U.S. does not know the location of all of Pakistan's nuclear weapons but is confident there are "pretty secure" measures to keep them out of terrorists' hands.
Panetta's comments come just days after the top U.S. military officer told Congress that there is evidence that Pakistan is adding to its nuclear weapons systems and warheads.
Speaking at a downtown forum organized by the Pacific Council on International Policy, Panetta was asked if nuclear weapons in Pakistan are more safely guarded than those in the former Soviet Union.
"Obviously, we do try to understand where all of these are located," the director said. "We don't have, frankly, the intelligence to know where they all are located."
He added that the U.S. is confident that Pakistani government has a "pretty secure approach to try to protect these weapons."
"It is something that we continue to watch," the director said. "The last thing we want is to have the Taliban have access to nuclear weapons in Pakistan."
At a congressional hearing last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked whether there was evidence that Pakistan was adding to its nuclear arsenal. He replied: "Yes."
Pakistan later issued a denial. Pakistan is battling a growing insurgency by Islamist militants with links to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Washington is considering giving it billions of dollars in aid to help fight the insurgents, who are blamed for attacks on U.S. and foreign troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
"I am not aware of any U.S. aid that has gone toward nuclear weapons, save that which is very focused in the last several years, last three or four years, on improving their security. Which is exactly what we'd like and they've done that," Mullen said in Washington Monday.
Pakistan is thought to possess more than 60 nuclear weapons under a program that began when its traditional enemy, India, started producing them.
The advance of the Taliban has raised fears in the West that the weapons could fall into militant hands. A more likely scenario, analysts say, is that Islamists may infiltrate its nuclear facilities and get hold of nuclear knowledge and material.
In a wide-ranging discussion of national security, Panetta promised improved relations with Congress, said the U.S. needs a "strong intelligence surge" to match military efforts against the Taliban, and warned that nations like Somalia and Yemen must not become training grounds for a new generation of al-Qaida militants.
Associated Press Writer Anne Gearan in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
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