Dr. Khan, a metallurgist who was charged
with stealing European
designs for enriching uranium a quarter century ago, has not yet been
questioned. American and European officials say he is the centerpiece
of their investigation, but that General Musharraf's government has
been reluctant to take him on because of his status and deep ties
the country's military and intelligence services. A senior Pakistani
official said in an interview that "any individual who is found
associated with anything suspicious would be under investigation,"
promised a sweeping inquiry.
Pakistan's role in providing centrifuge
designs to Iran, and the
possible involvement of Dr. Khan in such a transfer, was reported
Sunday by The Washington Post. Other suspected nuclear links between
Pakistan and Iran have been reported in previous weeks by other news
An investigation conducted by The
New York Times during the past two
months, in Washington, Europe and Pakistan, showed that American and
European investigators are interested in what they describe as Iran's
purchase of nuclear centrifuge designs from Pakistan 16 years ago,
largely to force the Pakistani government to face up to a pattern
clandestine sales by its nuclear engineers and to investigate much
more recent transfers.
Those include shipments in the late
1990's to facilities in North
Korea that American intelligence agencies are still trying to locate,
in hopes of gaining access to them.
New questions about Pakistan's role
have also been raised by Libya's
decision on Friday to reveal and dismantle its unconventional weapons,
including centrifuges and thousands of centrifuge parts. A senior
American official said this weekend that Libya had shown visiting
American and British intelligence officials "a relatively
sophisticated model of centrifuge," which can be used to enrich
uranium for bomb fuel.
A senior European diplomat with access
to detailed intelligence said
Sunday that the Libyan program had "certain common elements"
Iranian program and with the pattern of technology leakage from
Pakistan to Iran. The C.I.A. declined to say over the weekend what
country appeared to be Libya's primary source. "It looks like
indirect transfer," said one official. "It will take a while
There are also investigations under
way to determine if Pakistani
technology has spread elsewhere in the Middle East and Asia, but so
far the evidence involves largely the exchange of scientists with
countries including Myanmar. There have been no confirmed reports
additional technology transfers, intelligence officials say.
The Pakistani action to question Dr.
Khan's associates was prompted by
information Iran turned over two months ago to the International
Atomic Energy Agency, under pressure to reveal the details of a
long-hidden nuclear program. But even before Iran listed its suppliers
to the I.A.E.A. five individuals and a number of companies
around the world a British expert who accompanied agency inspectors
into Iran earlier this year identified Iranian centrifuges as being
identical to the early models that the Khan laboratories had modified
from European designs. "They were Pak-1's," said one senior
who later joined the investigation, saying that they were transferred
to Iran in 1987
Pakistani officials said the sales
to Iran might have occurred in the
1980's during the rule of the last American-backed military ruler,
Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. They acknowledge questioning three
scientists: Mohammed Farooq, Yasin Chohan and a man believed to be
named Sayeed Ahmad, all close aides to Dr. Khan.
A senior Pakistani intelligence official
said Mr. Farooq was in charge
of dealing with foreign suppliers at the Khan laboratory, run by Dr.
Khan until he was forced into retirement partly at American
insistence in the spring of 2001. At the laboratory, where
the work was done that led to Pakistan's successful nuclear tests
1998 and its deployment of dozens of nuclear weapons, Mr. Chohan was
in charge of metallurgical research, according to senior Pakistani
Contacted by telephone last week,
relatives of Mr. Farooq said he was
still being questioned. Mr. Chohan's family said Sunday that Mr.
Chohan had been released and was at home.
Pakistani officials have insisted
in that if their scientists and
engineers had done anything wrong, it was without government approval.
They said their bank accounts and real estate holdings were also being
investigated. A senior Bush administration official, while declining
to comment on what was learned when Pakistani officials questioned
men, said that all three had been "well known to our intelligence
folks." Another official said the United States had steered Pakistani
officials to the three, in hopes it would further pressure Dr. Khan.
Dr. Khan declined several requests
in November for an interview,
routed through his secretary and his official biographer, Zahid Malik.
However, Mr. Malik relayed a statement from Dr. Khan that he had never
traveled to Iran. "He said, `I have never been there in my life.'
European confidante of Dr. Khan's, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity, said the Pakistani scientist put the blame for transfers
a Middle Eastern businessman who he said was supplying Pakistan with
centrifuge parts and, on his own, double-ordered the same components
to sell to Iran. "There is evidence he is innocent," the
said of Dr. Khan in an interview. "I don't think he is lying,
perhaps telling the whole truth."
Iran has insisted that all of its
centrifuges were built purely for
peaceful purposes, and last week it signed an agreement to allow
But for 18 years Iran hid the centrifuge
operations from the agency's
In Pakistan, the disclosure of the
investigation is already
complicating the political position of General Musharraf, who narrowly
escaped an assassination attempt a week ago. An alliance of hard-line
Islamic political parties has already assailed him for questioning
scientists, saying the inquiry shows he is a puppet of the United
Any attack on Dr. Khan, hailed as
the creator of the first "Islamic
bomb," is likely to be seized by the Islamist parties as a major
political issue. Many Pakistanis opposed the American-led invasions
Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as what is seen as the United States'
one-sided support of Israel. Many also perceive the United States
trying to dominate the Muslim world and through pressure on
nuclear scientists, to contain its power.
While General Musharraf was responsible
for sidelining Dr. Khan nearly
three years ago, he has also praised him. When the nuclear and
military establishments of Pakistan gathered for a formal dinner early
in 2001 to honor Dr. Khan's retirement, General Musharraf described
him this way, according to a transcript of his speech in a Pakistani
archive: "Dr. Khan and his team toiled and sweated, day and night,
against all odds and obstacles, against international sanctions and
sting operations, to create, literally out of nothing, with their
hands, the pride of Pakistan's nuclear capability."