updated 3/3/2004 8:28:59 PM ET 2004-03-04T01:28:59

Pakistan’s top military official on Wednesday offered to share unspecified military assistance and “nuclear power” with Nigeria’s armed forces, the defense ministry said.

Gen. Muhammad Aziz Khan, chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff, told Nigerian Defense Minister Rabiu Kwankwaso that Pakistan was “working out the dynamics” to help Nigeria’s armed forces “to strengthen its military capability and to acquire nuclear power,” Nigeria’s Defense Ministry said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

The communique pointed out that Pakistan has nuclear-tipped missiles but did not say whether Pakistan is offering such technology or if Nigeria seeks such weapons.

Nigeria’s defense minister urged intensified cooperation between the two countries, adding Nigeria was capable of helping Pakistan train its soldiers, if needed, the statement said.

Khan, who was in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on a scheduled visit, explained to his counterparts that “Pakistan had to take its destiny into its own hands to become a nuclear state because of the regular threats posed by hostile neighbors with special reference to the Kashmir conflict,” the statement said.

The communique did not elaborate, and officials of Nigeria’s presidency and Defense Ministry did not answer their phones.

Web of nuclear connections
One of Pakistan’s top nuclear scientists admitted last month that he sold nuclear technology to Iran, as well as North Korea and Libya — all nations on the U.S. list of terrorism sponsors. U.S. President George Bush said the underground nuclear network was exposed by the work of U.S. and British intelligence agencies over the past few years.

Nuclear standoffThe announcement came less than two months after Nigeria’s vice presidency announced North Korea agreed to share missile technology with Nigeria, an offer that was subsequently denied by North Korean officials and downplayed by a spokeswoman to Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The United States alleges that Pyongyang reaped about $560 million (U.S.) from missile sales in 2001.

Nigeria, an African heavyweight which is not at war or under any known threat from other countries, said at the time that any North Korean missile help would be used for “peacekeeping” and to protect its territory. It said it was not seeking nuclear technology or weapons of mass destruction.

Under former army dictators, Nigeria’s military was viewed as an international pariah for ruthlessly suppressing dissent. Involvement in African peace missions since elections restored civilian rule in 1999 has helped repair its image abroad.

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