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French envoy warns on Pakistan nukes

France's special envoy to Pakistan painted a grim picture on Thursday of a country collapsing under pressure from Islamist rebels which could one day seize control of its nuclear arsenal.

world Updated: May 07, 2009 19:39 IST

France's special envoy to Pakistan painted a grim picture on Thursday of a country collapsing under pressure from Islamist rebels which could one day seize control of its nuclear arsenal.

"Today the Taliban are making progress not just in Afghanistan but in the Pakistani interior itself, and at the end of this road there's a stock of nuclear weapons," Pierre Lellouche told Europe 1 radio.

Lellouche is President Nicolas Sarkozy's representative dealing with the conflicts in Afghanistan, where French forces form part of a NATO force, and in Pakistan, where the government is struggling to deal with the Taliban.

"They are nibbling away and fear is settling into people's hearts," he said, describing the advance of Taliban guerrillas into districts just north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, which Lellouche visited recently.

"We shouldn't think of columns of Taliban descending on the capital. It's more complicated than that. We are seeing the rampant Talibanisation of areas close to the capital, a mental Talibanisation," he warned.

"They are closing schools and sports halls in Islamabad itself, even those used by foreign diplomats," he said, adding that in Taliban areas "women are whipped in the streets.