WASHINGTON - A key US lawmaker who co-authored a legislation to roll back the nuclear weapons programme of former Soviet Republics has called for applying it to Pakistan in an effort to help the country safeguard the "weapons, materials and delivery systems that could pose a threat to the American people." Citing US concern in Washington over the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who is now co-sponsoring with Democratic Sen. John Kerry a bill to triple non-military aid to Pakistan, issued a statement urging the Obama administration to "vigorously seek to expand our cooperation with Pakistan" under the programme envisaged in the so-called Nunn-Lugar legislation. "Nunn-Lugar funds were committed for the first time outside of former Soviet territory to destroy 16 tons of chemical weapons in Albania," he said. "This authority can and should be used to expand significantly our cooperation with Pakistan in the nuclear arena as well as in other critical areas". Lugar went a step further, and invoking the recent Swine flu epidemic, recommended that cooperation with Pakistan under the program also include its biological weapons. "In recent weeks the world has been gripped by the spread of the H1N1 virus. Imagine if the spread were intentional, not natural, and the virus's lethality had been artificially enhanced. Pakistan has many dangerous diseases and pathogens under its control. The Nunn-Lugar program can help secure the pathogen strains to ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands," Lugar added. The Indiana Republican said the first step must be strong leadership by President Barack Obama "to win President (Asif Ali) Zardari's political commitment, and that of General (Ashfaq) Kayani, head of Pakistan's military, to get Nunn-Lugar fully engaged in Pakistan sooner rather than later." Lugar's remarks in the wake of vigorous efforts by the visiting President Zardari to convince US lawmakers, the administration, the think tanks and the media of the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. The president told reporters after meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that "all of the responsible authorities" in and out of Pakistan "are availed of the situation" and he had "attested to the fact that our nuclear capability is in safe hands." But Lugar, who was present at the meeting, declined to endorse Zardari's assurance and instead pressed the White House to act under the provisions of the Nunn-Lugar Act. The Obama administration itself has been ambivalent about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, sometimes publicly buying into Islamabad's assurances, but privately expressing concern through officials. Initiated in 1991, the Nunn-Lugar Act established the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to provide US funding and expertise in assisting safeguarding and dismantling nuclear, chemical and biological weapons stockpiles. It has deactivated more than 7,500 nuclear warheads, 2,000 missiles, and over 1,100 missile launchers in the former Soviet Republics of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The programme, as originally envisaged, was restricted to the former Soviet Union, but in 2003 Lugar wrote legislation to expand its scope. "This authority can and should be used to expand significantly our cooperation with Pakistan in the nuclear arena as well as in other critical areas," Lugar said on Thursday.