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Rumsfeld Clears Musharraf of Nuclear Trafficking

Rumsfeld Clears Musharraf of Nuclear Trafficking

Author: Jim Wolf
Publication: Yahoo News
Date: March 28, 2004
URL: http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=564&u=/nm/20040328/ts_nm/nuclear_pakistan_rumsfeld_dc_2&printer=1

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday he had no reason to suspect President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan of past involvement in an international nuclear black market but declined to rule out other possible high-level military complicity.

"I do not believe that there's any evidence or any suggestion that President Musharraf was involved," Rumsfeld said in an interview on the ABC program "This Week."

Abdul Qader Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, admitted in February to having given nuclear weapons know-how and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea (news - web sites), saying he had done so without Pakistani government authorization.

"I'm not going to say that," Rumsfeld replied when asked whether he was confident there had been no other "high-level military" involvement in Pakistan.

"You can't prove a negative," he added. "You can't say that I know that every person connected with the Pakistani military over some sustained period of time had no knowledge or participation whatsoever. That's silly. I couldn't do that."

Critics have questioned how Khan could have carried out illicit sales going back to the late 1980s without some level of official support.

Musharraf, in a taped ABC interview in Islamabad on Friday, dismissed published reports about a possible deal with President Bush (news - web sites) to go easy on him over the Khan-headed nuclear black market.

The deal purportedly would have been getting the Pakistani army to crack down hard on suspected al Qaeda guerrillas loyal to Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) in tribal areas along the Afghan border.

"There is no deal whatsoever," said Musharraf, an Army general who seized power in an October, 1999, coup. "This is all humbug. There is just no deal."

He reiterated that Khan acted on his own and that neither the military nor the government was involved in illicit nuclear deals.

Musharraf also played down the harm done by the nuclear technology transfers to which Khan has confessed.

"People are, I think, over-assessing the physical damage of the proliferation that he has done," he said.

"If I hand over a missile or a bomb to any extremist, believe me, he can do nothing about it," he said. "He cannot explode it" without knowledge of a sophisticated triggering mechanism.

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