Iran Nuclear NewsPakistan Admits Scientist Sold Centrifuges to Iran's Atom Program

Pakistan Admits Scientist Sold Centrifuges to Iran’s Atom Program

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New York 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. New York Times

By SOMINI SENGUPTA

NEW DELHI – 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.

“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.”

Centrifuges can enrich uranium, turning it into fuel for nuclear power plants or, with considerable enrichment, for weapons. Iran has maintained that it wants enriched uranium only to generate electric power. The Bush administration contends that Iran’s true intent is to build a bomb, although the International Atomic Energy Agency has said it has not found proof of an Iranian weapons project. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to visit India and Pakistan next week.

Dr. Khan, esteemed in Pakistan as the moving force behind the country’s nuclear weapons capability to counter that of India’s admitted last year to having spread Pakistan’s nuclear technology. But he offered no details, and issued an apology.

He was immediately pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf and now lives in a closely guarded house in the capital. Bush administration officials have said they believe that most of Dr. Khan’s black-market network has been dismantled.

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.

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