UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan assigns the “highest priority” to ensuring a fool-proof safety and security mechanism for the country’s nuclear programme, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani declared at the UN.

“Nuclear security is both a global challenge and a national responsibility,” Hina said in a speech to a high-level meeting on Countering Nuclear Terrorism, held on the sidelines of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Over the years,” she said, “we have put in place extensive physical protection measures, robust command and control structures, comprehensive export controls and wide-ranging regulatory regimes,” she said.

She told delegates that Pakistan’s regulatory regime encompasses physical protection of materials and facilities, material control and accounting, transport security, prevention of illicit trafficking and border controls, as well as plans to deal with possible radiological emergencies.

“We have also developed technical solutions, personnel responsibility programmes, and intelligence capabilities to deal with WMD- (Weapons of Destruction) related terrorism,” she said.

Hina said Pakistan would cooperate in international efforts to strengthen regulatory mechanisms and establish effective barriers against the common threat of nuclear terrorism.

“We are part of global efforts to make sure that terrorists do not lay their hands on nuclear materials, knowledge and expertise,” she added.

Earlier, United Nations officials said the consolidation of strong international mechanisms is vital to combat nuclear terrorism, warning that countries must urgently act to tackle one of today’s most serious global threats.

“The prospect of terrorists acquiring nuclear materials is one of the most unnerving threats imaginable. Yet some have already stated their hopes of obtaining nuclear weapons. Still others may be working in the shadows to achieve this goal,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the high-level meeting on countering nuclear terrorism, held on the margins of the 67th session of the General Assembly.

Ban noted that countries have already taken steps to address this threat, namely through the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and Security Council resolution 1540.

Ban urged all countries that have not done so to become party to the Convention and fully comply with resolution 1540, and emphasised that nations must build on these foundations by adhering to international instruments and a rigorous review mechanism, as well as by increasing their capacity to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related materials.

The Director General of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, underlined that international cooperation is vital, and reiterated the IAEA’s readiness to help countries improve nuclear safety and its role in coordinating international efforts on nuclear security.

“Terrorists will exploit the weakest link in any security system. The challenge is global, so the response must be global. Continued shortcomings in nuclear security need to be addressed urgently,” Amano said.