July 5, 2008

Scientist: Pakistan Knew of N. Korea Deals


By Munir Ahmad

The Associated Press


Pakistan's army under President Pervez Musharraf supervised a shipment of uranium centrifuges to North Korea in 2000, the disgraced architect of Pakistan's atomic weapons program said Friday.

The claim is the most controversial leveled by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who in recent months has been agitating for an end to house arrest and backing off his 2004 confession that he was solely responsible for spreading Pakistan's nuclear arms technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

The retired scientist's comments could be embarrassing for Pakistan, which has repeatedly denied that the army or government knew about Khan's proliferation activities before they were uncovered in 2003.

His allegations also could become awkward for Washington in its support for Musharraf, who has been a key U.S. ally in the region but has seen his power and popularity at home slide over the past year from anger over his firings of judges and confrontations with Islamic extremists.

A spokesman for Musharraf rejected Khan's claims and called them "all lies." But some Pakistani experts have long argued that Khan's network could not have operated without the knowledge of the country's pervasive intelligence agencies.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Khan said a shipment of used P-1 centrifuges - which enrich uranium for nuclear warheads - was sent from Pakistan in a North Korean plane that was loaded under the supervision of Pakistani security officials.

Khan said the army had "complete knowledge" of the shipment and that it must have been done with the consent of Musharraf, the army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup.

"It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment," Khan said. "It must have gone with his (Musharraf's) consent."

His allegations were first reported Friday by the Japanese news agency Kyodo.

Musharraf's spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, disputed Khan's charges. "I can say with full confidence that it is all lies and false statements," Qureshi said.

In a speech Friday, Musharraf made no mention of Khan's allegations and focused on politics. He said he would not quit the presidency - as demanded by his opponents - and that he still has a valuable role to play. He called for Pakistanis to work together to fight Islamic extremism.

Spokesmen for the army and the Foreign Ministry declined to give responses to Khan's charges.

Khan is regarded as a hero by many Pakistanis for his key role in the program that gave their country the Islamic world's first nuclear bomb in 1998, seen as a deterrent against the atomic arsenal held by neighboring India.

After his 2004 confession and a televised statement of contrition, Khan was pardoned by Musharraf but has been kept under house arrest at his villa in Islamabad.

Khan had not previously implicated anyone or explicitly said that the army was aware of nuclear shipments. His comments Friday appear to stem from his growing frustration over the restrictions on his movements.

Khan and his wife retained an attorney earlier this week to petition the Islamabad High Court for an end to his detention.

who he is

Retired scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan is regarded as a hero by many Pakistanis for his key role in the program that gave their country the Islamic world's first nuclear bomb.

Originally published by BY MUNIR AHMAD.

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