Thursday, March 10, 2005

Pakistan Admits Scientist Sold Centrifuges to Iran's Atom Program

Somini Sengupta, NY Times:
A Pakistani official said Thursday that his country's disgraced nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, had given centrifuges to Iran, but not with the government's consent.

It was Pakistan's first specific public declaration of the nuclear technology that had been sold to Iran, though it stopped short of saying what else had been supplied by Dr. Khan's black-market network. The official, Information Minister Sheik Rashid Ahmed, did not discuss sales to other nations and he reiterated Pakistan's refusal to let foreign investigators interview Dr. Khan. read more

"This was an individual act, nothing to do with the government of Pakistan," Mr. Ahmed said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. Other Pakistani officials also have insisted that Dr. Khan worked without help from government officials, despite the fact that some of his equipment was transported on Pakistani military aircraft.

Mr. Ahmed first made his remarks at a news conference in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, earlier in the day, according to news agency reports.

Senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence services have expressed frustration that they have not been able to question Dr. Khan directly, and they have said they are suspicious about some of the answers that get passed back to them from Pakistani officials.

Mr. Ahmed said, "We have investigated him and we have no intention of giving up to anybody." ...

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to visit India and Pakistan next week. ...

Pakistan, an important ally in the United States' campaign against terrorism, has in the past acknowledged that Dr. Khan smuggled nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya. But it has never offered any details of those deals or admitted that Dr. Khan shipped weapons technology to North Korea, despite considerable evidence of visits and trade between the Khan network and North Korea.

A blueprint for a 10-kiloton atomic bomb emerged last year in the files of the Libyan weapons program, apparently sold or given to Libya when it bought equipment from the Khan network. Asked whether Dr. Khan had sold bomb-making secrets to Iran or any other country, Mr. Ahmed said Thursday that he had "no information" about such transactions.

He said Pakistan had cooperated with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog agency.