February 06, 2005

US probing whether Khan sold nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, others

US probing whether Khan sold nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, others

The United States is investigating whether Pakistani scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan sold nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and other countries, Time magazine reported Sunday.
The news weekly, citing a source in Pakistan's defense ministry, said that Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, had also played a bigger role in helping Iran and North Korea with their nuclear programs than had been previously disclosed.

"US intelligence officials believe Khan sold North Korea much of the material needed to build a bomb, including high-speed centrifuges used to enrich uranium and the equipment required to manufacture more of them," Time said.

Iran also may have bought centrifuges and weapons designs from Khan in the mid-1990s, Time said, adding that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had confirmed at least 13 meetings between 1994 and 1999 with representatives of Khan's network.

Among the countries known to have been helped by Khan was Libya. Time said the Pakistani scientist had given the Libyans equipment for centrifuges and "technical instructions for how to build a nuclear warhead."

Time said US and IAEA investigators believe Khan also traveled to Saudi Arabia and Egypt and to such African countries as Sudan, Ivory Coast and Niger.

It said the purpose of those trips "remains unclear." "But intelligence officials have hunches: Saudi Arabia and Egypt are believed to be in the market for nuclear technology, and many African countries are rich in raw uranium ore," the magazine said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has not allowed the United States or the IAEA to interrogate Khan directly, but the United States has submitted questions to him asking whether North Korea and Iran sold nuclear equipment to third parties, Time said.

The magazine said the United States does not have "concrete evidence" that Khan did business with Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, but "there is reason to suspect that such a link exists.

"Members of Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment, which worked closely with Khan in his role as the government's top nuclear scientist, are known to sympathize with Osama bin Laden," the magazine said.

Time also said that although the 68-year-old Khan is under house arrest in Pakistan and in failing health the Pakistani nuclear scientist's "illicit network of suppliers and middlemen is still out there."

Khan appeared on Pakistani television in February 2004 and took full responsibility for transfers of nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Musharraf gave him a conditional pardon and has said that no government or military body was involved in the proliferation scandal.

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