Pakistan Downplays CIA Report on Leaks
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan on Saturday defended its efforts to halt leaks of nuclear technology amid suggestions that a new CIA report says a renegade scientist provided more help to Iran’s nuclear weapons program than previously disclosed.
The CIA – which provides the U.S. Congress with six-month updates on reported efforts by Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria to obtain chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons technology – posted an unclassified version on its Web site this week.
Analyzing the report, The New York Times said it indicates that bomb-making designs provided by Abdul Qadeer Khan to Iran in the 1990s were more significant than Washington has said.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan criticized the Times report, saying it was “based on flimsy evidence, hearsay and snippets of conversations.
“The CIA report does not mention any `designs for weapons or bomb-making components.’ Weapons and bomb-making are the writer’s own creative insertions,” Masood Khan said Saturday.
“In the past year, Pakistan has conducted an inquiry to unearth an illicit network of international black-marketeers, dismantled it and shared the results of the inquiry transparently with the people of Pakistan.
“Pakistan has been cooperating with the IAEA and the international community to thwart international black-marketeers from proliferating sensitive nuclear technology.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency – the Vienna, Austria-based nuclear watchdog agency of the United Nations – has been investigating Iran’s nuclear activities for about 18 months, but the agency remains unable to determine if nearly two decades of Iranian nuclear activities were purely peaceful or if the government had a secret weapons agenda.
Tehran says its activities were for generating electricity, while the United States says they were for making weapons.
Iran and European negotiators have reached a tentative compromise on a deal committing Tehran to freeze all uranium enrichment activities, diplomats say, but the Iranian government still must approve the agreement.
A.Q. Khan, considered a national hero for leading the development of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent against rival India, admitted in February to passing nuclear technology to other countries. He was pardoned by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who cited his service to the nation, but he is under virtual house arrest in Islamabad.
“Iran’s nuclear program received significant assistance in the past from the proliferation network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan,” the CIA report said. “The A.Q. Khan network provided Iran with designs for Pakistan’s older centrifuges as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models and components.”
It said Libya disclosed receiving similar assistance from A.Q. Khan, head of Pakistan’s nuclear program from the 1970s until 2001.
“Even in cases where states took action to stem such transfers, knowledgeable individuals or non-state purveyors of WMD- and missile-related materials and technology could act outside government constraints,” the report said.
“The exposure of the A.Q. Khan network and its role in supplying nuclear technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea illustrate one form of this threat.”
The Times focused on the phrase “designs for more advanced and efficient models, and components,” indicating that “components” refers to weapons components.
The Times pointed out that American officials have publicly referred only to A.Q. Khan network’s role in supplying Iran with designs for older Pakistani centrifuges used to enrich uranium but also have suspected it provided a warhead design, too.
Citing a tape it obtained of a closed-door speech to a private group, the paper quoted former CIA director George J. Tenet as describing A.Q. Khan as “at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden” because of his role in providing nuclear technology to other countries.