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U.S. rebuts Pakistan on nuclear leaks

U.S. rebuts Pakistan on nuclear leaks

Author: AP
Publication: USA Today
Date: February 10, 2004
URL: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-02-10-us-pakistan-nuclear_x.htm

Contradicting President Pervez Musharraf, the State Department said Tuesday that for years it provided Pakistani officials with evidence of a black market in nuclear technology. Apart from general concerns, American officials turned over "pieces of information" from time to time, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

While reluctant to expose U.S. intelligence activities, Boucher said "we have talked to them at different moments about different issues that might have arisen that we might have learned about."

Pakistan's most prominent nuclear scientist, A.Q. Kahn, has confessed to selling nuclear technology to other countries. Musharraf at first granted him a pardon, then this week made it dependent on what a Pakistani investigation turns up.

In Rawalpindi, Musharraf told The New York Times on Monday that the United States had not given him convincing proof and had provided him with evidence of Khan's activities only last October.

But Boucher said "certainly our nonproliferation dialogue with Pakistan goes back much farther than that."

"We have discussed nonproliferation issues with Pakistan repeatedly over a long period of time, and it's been an issue of concern to us and to President Musharraf, as well," the spokesman said.

In Islamabad a government official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that warnings from fellow scientists about the father of Pakistan's nuclear program and his ostentatious wealth had raised suspicions that he was selling weapons technology abroad years before the government was compelled to take action.

Scientists who worked in Pakistan's covert program to build a nuclear deterrent against rival India had warned the government even before its first bomb test in 1998 that Khan was involved in suspect activity, a government official said on condition of anonymity.

Secretary of State Colin Powell insisted Monday that Pakistan, an ally in the U.S. war against terrorism, dismantle the network "by its roots."

While dismissing reports he planned a trip soon to discuss U.S. concerns with Musharraf, Powell said the Pakistani president had told him in a telephone conversation during the weekend that the pardon he had granted Khan, once the scientist revealed his operation, was a conditional one.

Powell did not provide any details about Musharraf's intentions in dealing with the revered father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, who was at the center of a widespread and sophisticated operation that sent nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya and Iran, all of which are designated as sponsors of terror by the State Department.

Since the Bush administration took office more than three years ago, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had made a point of looking into a Pakistani role in proliferation and has raised his concerns with Musharraf and other Pakistani officials, Boucher said Monday.

Khan has said he acted without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities in leaking nuclear secrets to countries developing nuclear weapons.

Only a few weeks before the scandal surfaced, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington brushed aside allegations that Pakistani scientists had provided Libya - and possibly Iran and North Korea - with advanced nuclear technology.

"As far as we know, none was shipped out - ever. Nobody has presented us with evidence that this happened at such and such a time," Ambassador Ashraf Qazi said at the time.

Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton, in a telephone interview Monday with the San Francisco Chronicle, said the ring run by Khan may have spread banned weapons to states beyond Iran, North Korea and Libya.

"If part of that network is exposed, you don't really know whether you've exposed all of it or not, or brought it down," Bolton told the newspaper.
 


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