[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/20/art.clinton0519.gi.jpg caption="Hillary Clinton told lawmakers that new U.S. aid to Pakistan won't fund nuclear development."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday tried to reassure senators that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure and that U.S. aid money won't be diverted to produce even more nuclear weapons.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, raised the issue of Pakistan increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile as he chaired a hearing of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.
"Are we just giving them money, which is after all fungible, and is going into not fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda, which are groups that are destabilizing that country more and more all the time, but rather is that money just going into the nuclear program?" Leahy asked.
"I think that there is no basis for believing that any of the money that we are providing will be diverted into the nuclear program," Clinton replied.
Her comments came as Pakistan's information minister denied accusations by the Institute for Science and International Security that his country was expanding its nuclear weapons program.
The non-partisan group, based in Washington, D.C., released a report earlier this week containing satellite images that the institute says shows expansion of "Pakistan's key military and civilian fuel cycle site near Dera Ghazi Khan."
Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said he could not verify any construction at the site.
Clinton told lawmakers on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee that there had been dramatic changes in Pakistan since she testified in a hearing last month about the the inability or unwillingness of the Pakistani government to take on the Taliban.
"That has turned around," Clinton said. "What we see now is an all-out effort by the Pakistani military to take back territory that had been seized by the Taliban."
As the Taliban advanced, coming within 60 miles of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, global concerns increased that the country's nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
Clinton said the United States stands ready to assist Pakistan in protecting its nuclear arsenal.
"We are assured by the Pakistani military and the government that they have control over their nuclear weapons at this time and we have offered and continue to work with them in any way that they deem appropriate to help them assure the safety and security of those weapons. I do not see that as an immediate threat but it is certainly one we take very seriously," Clinton said.
She also reported that the United States was losing the propaganda war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and said the State Department was working up a new communications strategy to counter "a steady diet of the worst kind of disinformation" disseminated by extremists.
"We are being out-communicated by the Taliban and al Qaeda. That is absolutely unacceptable," Clinton said.
And turning to Iran - which successfully tested a longer-range surface-to-surface missile Wednesday - Clinton said that the United States, working alone and with Arab allies, will continue trying to persuade Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
"A nuclear-armed Iran with a deliverable weapons system is going to spark an arms race in the Middle East and the greater region that is not going to be in the interest of Iranian security," Clinton said. "And we believe we have a very strong case to make for that."
She made no reference to the latest Iranian missile launch.