ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Dec. 22 — Government officials confirmed Monday that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the developer of Pakistan's atomic bomb, was being questioned about reports that some Pakistani nuclear scientists had shared secrets with Iran and North Korea.

"Some questions have been raised with him in relation to ongoing debriefing sessions," Masood Khan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, was quoted by news agencies as saying.

Officials said Dr. Khan was not under arrest, however.

Earlier this month, Pakistani authorities detained three nuclear scientists associated with the A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta, 20 miles southeast of Islamabad, the capital. The center, named for Dr. Khan, is the country's main nuclear-enrichment laboratory. On Sunday one of the three scientists, Yasin Chohan, was allowed to return home, according to Foreign Ministry officials.

Pakistan has come under increasing international pressure in recent weeks as reports about suspected links between nuclear programs in Iran and Pakistan have surfaced.

Pakistan denies having shared nuclear technology with Iran, North Korea or any other country.

The scientists who were detained, identified in newspaper reports as Dr. Chohan, Farooq Muhammad and Sayeed Ahmed, have been described as close aides to Dr. Khan, who retired in 2001.

Any move against Dr. Khan, a popular figure in Pakistan, would probably set off a backlash by Islamist and opposition parties, which have already criticized the detentions, accusing the government of rolling back the nuclear program.

Prof. Khurshid Ahmed, an opposition senator, accused the government of harassing the scientists to please "their American masters."

AQ Khan questioned over Iran link

ISLAMABAD: Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, is being questioned about reports of possible links between the Pakistani and Iranian nuclear programmes, the government said on Monday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan told Reuters that AQ Khan was being questioned in connection with "debriefings" of several scientists working at his Khan Research Laboratories, a uranium enrichment plant near Islamabad.

"He is too eminent a scientist to undergo a normal debriefing session," Masood Khan said. "However, some questions have been raised with him in relation to the ongoing debriefing sessions."

The spokesman denied reports Khan was under restriction. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed earlier acknowledged that "one or two scientists" were being questioned about media reports of possible links between the Pakistani and Iranian nuclear programmes.

"We are investigating," he said. "We are questioning one or two scientists after we heard allegations through the media." Diplomats in Vienna told Reuters last month the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency was investigating a possible link between Pakistan and Iran after Tehran acknowledged using centrifuge designs that appear identical to ones used in Islamabad’s quest for an atomic bomb.

Pakistan has persistently denied exporting nuclear technology and has specifically denied any link to the Iranian programme. Masood Khan denied reports that Khan had been placed under restriction as part of the investigation. "He is not under arrest, he is not under detention, he is under no restriction," he said. However, several intelligence sources told Reuters the scientist, a national hero after developing a nuclear bomb to rival neighbouring India’s, had not been allowed to receive visitors at his home in Islamabad, nor to leave it since the probe began last week. "It is routine matter," said one of the sources, who did not want to be identified. "We are debriefing every nuclear scientist, so Dr Qadeer is facing the same formality."

On Sunday, the government said Yasin Chohan, one of the three Khan Laboratories scientists detained earlier in the month, had been allowed to return home after undergoing a "personnel dependability and debriefing session". It said two other scientists, Muhammad Farooq, and another identified only as Saeed, were "still undergoing debriefing".

The foreign ministry spokesman said: "We have been fully cooperating with IAEA, the government of Pakistan has never authorised or initiated any transfers of sensitive nuclear technology." The spokesman added that "a very small number" of individuals were under investigation.

"If they are found responsible at the end of debriefing sessions, we shall take action against such individuals if warranted and if they are found culpable under our laws. No body is above the law," he said.

"Pakistan takes its responsibility as a nuclear weapons state very seriously. Since a strict command and control system was established nothing of the sort has happened." He also denied reports that US investigators were involved in questioning Pakistani scientists. "These are purely in-house investigations. No foreigners or foreign agencies are associated with the debriefing sessions in sensitive organisations."

However, the New York Times reported on Monday that information Iran turned over to the IAEA two months ago strengthened suspicions that Pakistan sold key nuclear secrets to Iran. The government has strongly denied allegations it spread nuclear technology to countries such as Iran, North Korea and Libya — but acknowledged on Monday the possibility that scientists may have acted without authorisation.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed reiterated that Pakistan’s government had not authorised the spread of sensitive technology to any country, but acknowledged it was looking into whether individuals involved in its nuclear program had.

"Some individuals may have been doing something on their own. We are investigating that," Rashid told The Associated Press. "Pakistan and its state institutions and entities would distance themselves from any individuals if they are found responsible at the end of these debriefing sessions," Masood said.

According to diplomats, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency has identified Russia, China and Pakistan as probable sources for equipment used by Iran for possible nuclear weapons development. Rashid said investigations of the scientists followed "IAEA reservations and recent news reports in the Western world."

Three Iraqi scientists held

Baghdad, December 22
The US army has arrested three Iraqi scientists who worked on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programmes, Higher Education Minister Ziad Abdul Razzak said today.

“The three scientists who are teachers at Baghdad’s technology university were arrested last week,” the minister told the Kurdish daily Al-Taakhi.

The ministry had sent a message to the interim Governing Council to register a “protest” over the arrest and to demand the government declare an amnesty for teachers.

A large number of Iraqi scientists who were employed on the programmes have returned to teaching.

UN weapons inspectors visited Iraqi universities on numerous occasions seeking information on the allegedly hidden weapons. — AFP




FBI arrests Pak nuclear scientists for leaking technology to Iran

Thursday December 11 2003 15:15 IST IANS

ISLAMABAD: Two top Pakistani nuclear scientists have been arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly transferring technology to Iran, according to reports.

The FBI is believed to have arrested Yasin Chohan, Director General of Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), Pakistan's premier nuclear facility, and Farooq (no second name), a Director, Dawn said on Thursday.

Farooq was said to be "very close" to KRL founder Abdul Qadeer Khan, widely acknowledged as the father of Pakistan's nuclear programme.

"Nobody in Khan Research Laboratories exactly knew about the whereabouts of the two scientists and it is believed they have been picked up by FBI. When contacted, the public relations officer of KRL said he was completely in the dark on the issue," Dawn said.

Abdul Qadeer Khan could not be reached for comment.

"Khan is not at home and it is very difficult to tell where he will be at this time," a person who received the telephone call at his residence told Dawn.

The issue figured in parliament with Senator Sajid Mir raising a point of order in the upper house. "He lamented that those who had made the country's defence strong were now picked up to please some foreign countries," The News reported.

"KRL, which was considered a solid guarantee of national defence, had been opened to foreigners to arrest Pakistani scientists," Mir charged. "With this act the government is now a security risk for the country," Senator Khursheed Ahmed Khan of the opposition Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) religious alliance, told reporters.

"The government should take the people and parliament into confidence over the arrest of scientists," demanded MMA Senator Ishaq Dar, charging that the government had decided to roll back its nuclear programme.

"Our nation should launch joint efforts to safeguard the vital programme otherwise the US will take it over," he maintained.

The Pakistani government reacted cautiously on the issue. A foreign office spokesman said people associated with sensitive programmes "are governed by a stringent personnel dependability and debrief programme. This is a normal practice, especially in nuclear weapons states. These people are aware of their responsibilities in terms of their efficiency and conduct."

"Under the programme, individuals may have to undergo debriefing sessions and the matter referred to falls within the scope of this practice," the spokesman said.

Qadeer Khan’s movement restricted

Islamabad, December 22
‘Father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb’ Abdul Qadeer Khan is being “debriefed” and his movements “restricted” following continuing investigations by the Musharraf regime into the alleged links between some Pakistani scientists and Iran.

Pakistan’s The Daily Times reported today that the government had imposed “certain unspecified restrictions” on Dr Khan, who established Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta, following the earlier detention and debriefing of two nuclear scientists under investigation for their alleged links with Iran.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told the newspaper that “in-house investigations have been going on and some scientists have participated in debriefing sessions. These are continuing and relevant departments will make a definitive determination upon the conclusion of this process.”

The spokesman reiterated that the Pakistan Government had never authorised any transfers of sensitive nuclear technology to other countries.

Dr Khan, known as the ‘architect of Pakistan’s nuclear programme’, is also the ‘father of Pakistan’s medium-range Ghauri missile’.

Inquiry suggests Pakistanis sold nuclear secrets


By William J. Broad, David Rohde and David E. Sanger

WASHINGTON, The New York Times — A lengthy investigation of the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, by American and European intelligence agencies and international nuclear inspectors has forced Pakistani officials to question his aides and openly confront evidence that the country was the source of crucial technology to enrich uranium for Iran, North Korea and possibly other nations.

Until the past few weeks, Pakistani officials had denied evidence that the A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories, named for the man considered a national hero, had ever been a source of weapons technology to countries aspiring to acquire fissile material. Now they are backing away from those denials, while insisting that there has been no transfer of nuclear technology since President Pervez Musharraf took power four years ago.

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 to 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," and 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 organizations.

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 of 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" with the 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 an indirect transfer," said one official. "It will take a while to trace it back."

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 of 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 from 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 official 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 much of the work was done that led to Pakistan's successful nuclear tests in 1998 and its deployment of dozens of nuclear weapons, Mr. Chohan was in charge of metallurgical research, according to senior Pakistani officials.

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 the 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.' " A European confidante of Dr. Khan's, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Pakistani scientist put the blame for transfers on 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 confidante said of Dr. Khan in an interview. "I don't think he is lying, but not 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 deeper inspections.

But for 18 years Iran hid the centrifuge operations from the agency's inspectors.

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 the scientists, saying the inquiry shows he is a puppet of the United States.

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 of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as what is seen as the United States' one-sided support of Israel. Many also perceive the United States as trying to dominate the Muslim world — and through pressure on the 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 bare hands, the pride of Pakistan's nuclear capability."

European and American officials have a different view of Dr. Khan, from his work from 1972 to 1975 in the Netherlands at a centrifuge plant, Urenco.

At the plant, Dr. Khan gained access to centrifuge designs that were extremely sensitive, records from a later investigation show. Suddenly, around 1976, Dr. Khan quit and returned to Pakistan. Not long after, Western investigators say, Pakistan started an atom bomb program that eventually began to enrich uranium with centrifuges based on a stolen Dutch design.

Investigators in the Netherlands found a letter he wrote in the summer of 1976, after having returned to Pakistan, to Frits Veerman, a technician friend at the plant. "I ask you in great confidence to help us," Dr. Khan wrote, according to an article by David Albright, a nuclear expert, in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. "This is absolutely urgent."

Dr. Khan asked for help on how to etch special grooves on a Dutch centrifuge's bottom bearing, a critical part. The grooves were to aid the flow of lubricants. He also asked if Mr. Veerman might like to vacation in Pakistan "and earn some money at the same time?"

Suspicious, Mr. Veerman gave the letter to officials at Urenco. It was eventually used against Dr. Khan when he was put on trial in absentia in the Netherlands. In 1983, he was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing nuclear secrets. The conviction was later overturned, however, on a legal technicality.

By 1986, American intelligence had concluded that Pakistan was making weapons-grade uranium. And Dr. Khan was making no secret of his expertise: he published two articles that advertised his knowledge. He did so, he wrote, "because most of the work is shrouded in the clouds of the so-called secrecy" controlled by Western nuclear powers.

At around the same time, Iran made its secret deal and obtained basic centrifuge designs, the ones that now bear Pakistan's technological signature.

But it was in the mid- to late 1990's, as American sanctions tightened, that Pakistan made its biggest deal — with North Korea, American intelligence officials have said. Though Pakistan continues to deny any role, the laboratories are believed to have been the centerpiece of a barter arrangement of nuclear technology for missiles. South Korean intelligence agents discovered the transactions in 2002 and passed the information to the C.I.A. In the summer of that year, American spy satellites recorded a Pakistani C-130 loading North Korean missile parts in North Korea.

Earlier this year the State Department barred American transactions with the Khan laboratory because of the missile deal.

Pakistani officials say that since Dr. Khan's retirement, he has no longer been officially affiliated with the laboratory that bears his name. Still, one former Pakistani military official described him as a proud nationalist who saw himself as a Robin Hood-like character outwitting rich nations and aiding poor ones. Dr. Khan, he said, "was not that sort that would think it was a bad thing" to share nuclear weapons technology. "In fact, he would think it was a good thing."

David Rohde reported from Pakistan and Boston. William J. Broad and David E. Sanger reported from Vienna, New York and Washington.

Pakistan Questions Top Atomic Scientist

Published: December 23, 2003


Nuclear Spinning - The Iran-Pakistan link
Author: Simon Henderson
Publication: The New Indian Express
Date: December 11, 2003
Forget, for the moment, Saddam's weapons of mass destruction - or lack thereof. Consider instead the other WMD conundrum: Iran. Events in Pakistan, where two nuclear scientists were arrested last week, suggest the whole issue is about to blow. (Figuratively, that is.)

Last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations nuclear watchdog, declared, implausibly, that there was no evidence of Iran's trying to build an atomic bomb. Washington was gob-smacked. As with the proverbial duck, Iran's efforts looked like a nuclear-weapons program and sounded like a nuclear-weapons program. The trouble was the lack of proof sufficient to convince the pedants of the IAEA (which, incidentally, has never by itself discovered a clandestine nuclear-weapons program).

The Pakistani link is crucial to showing Iran's true motives. Pakistan, which tested two nuclear bombs in 1998, used centrifuges to make "highly" enriched (i.e., bomb-grade) uranium. Iran also has centrifuges. The IAEA discovered traces of highly enriched uranium on some of them. Tehran's reported explanation? "They came like that." From where? "We bought the equipment from a middleman."

The gossip is that Pakistan sold, directly or indirectly, the centrifuge equipment to Iran. The technology involves aluminum tubes - confusingly, the same technology that Saddam Hussein was reported to be interested in, although, to the glee of the war doubters, aluminum tubes found in Iraq so far have proved to be nothing more dangerous than casings for battlefield rockets. Aluminum tubes for centrifuges are decidedly "old-tech" but, in the absence of an alternative, can do the job, given enough time.

Officially, Pakistan denies it transferred centrifuge technology to Iran. But that still leaves open the possibility that Pakistani scientists did a private deal with Tehran, for money or mischief. The suspect in the frame? Dr. Abdul Qader Khan, who retired nearly three years ago as head of the eponymous Khan Research Laboratory (KRL). But despite Khan's background, there is evidence that he is being set up and is, on this issue, innocent.

The current state of the friendship between the U.S. and Pakistan is complicated at best, as American soldiers being shot at from Pakistani positions along the border with Afghanistan will testify. Osama bin Laden was reportedly sighted in the remote north-Pakistani town of Chitral recently. A more likely lair is somewhere in the vast, sprawling townships that make up Karachi, Pakistan's largest city on the Arabian Sea coast. President Musharraf, who retains the army uniform he was wearing when a 1999 coup brought him to power, juggles these tensions with Washington. Last month he was reported in the Los Angeles Times as saying that a trip by Khan to Iran had been about short-range missiles rather than nuclear issues. And, earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times quoted former Iranian diplomats as saying that Khan made several trips to Iran, beginning in 1987, and was given a villa on the Caspian Sea coast in return for his assistance.

This last report caught my eye as I once asked Khan whether he had ever been to Iran. I can remember his reply clearly: "Never." I have spoken with Khan or exchanged letters with him frequently over the years. He is often evasive but I think I can tell when he is telling a diplomatic lie. For the rest of the time, I think he is straightforward with me. I understand he stands by his claim of never having visited Iran.

The two nuclear scientists arrested last week were departmental directors at KRL. Dr. Mohammed Farooq and Dr. Yassin Chowhan were picked up at 10 P.M. on the night of December 1. They were taken away by Pakistani intelligence agents, accompanied, it is alleged, by English-speaking men, apparently CIA officers. Their homes in Rawalpindi, the city which merges into the capital, Islamabad, are reportedly under surveillance.

Dr. Farooq was in charge of the section at KRL that dealt with ties to foreign suppliers and customers for KRL products. KRL also makes a range of battlefield products for the Pakistani army, such as a version of a Chinese handheld antiaircraft missile. (It also makes the Pakistani version of the North Korean nuclear-capable Nodong missile.) Dr. Chowhan ran one of the assembly lines at KRL.

The assumption is that the two men will be held until they confess to assisting Dr. Khan in supplying centrifuges to Iran. Dr. Khan, now retired, is nominally an adviser to President Musharraf, but there is little evidence to show that his advice is sought very often. In the bitchy world of Pakistani politics, there is resentment that Dr. Khan is popularly considered "the father of the Islamic bomb."

So if Dr. Khan or some other Pakistani scientist did not supply centrifuge technology to Iran, who did? Suspicion falls on a Sri Lankan merchant formally based in Dubai, a member of his country's Muslim minority who has now returned home. The businessman acted as a conduit for Pakistan's orders of components and manufacturing equipment. Using that knowledge, he put in for extra orders of equipment and arranged a side deal with Iran. This scenario dates the start of Iran's centrifuge project to 1979, eight years earlier than the IAEA's assessment. Iran has refused to tell the IAEA the identity of this middleman.

But what about the traces of highly enriched uranium the IAEA found on the equipment in Iran? KRL apparently still uses some of its aluminum centrifuges alongside the later and more efficient ones made out of special steel. Others have been "scrapped and crushed." None has been exported. Perhaps Iran has been more successful at enrichment than it wants to admit.

Washington's motives are reasonably clear, even if not fully explained in public. Relations with Pakistan are very important. Iran's nuclear ambitions must be curtailed. Presumably if Dr. Khan is blamed, President Musharraf is forced, through embarrassment, into more cooperation with the U.S. But Iran's nuclear progress might be understated, and activities of an unscrupulous middleman might escape closer inspection. As with centrifuges themselves, there is a lot of spin.

- Simon Henderson is a London-based energy consultant and associate of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

This is a good sign that USA is waking up to the reality of the Islamic bomb in Pakistan. The next steps should be to achieve the aim of de-nuking the islamic nuke in Pakistan. It is too risky for the comfort of US security to allow the nuke facilities to continue to exist in this failed state. If any fundamentalist group gains control in Pakistan, the first enemy on the list will be USA. USA knows that Pakistan survives only because US is buttressing the state. But, then USA should know how to dismount a tiger of USA's own creation. If help is needed, Bharat and Israel will surely come forward to help USA in the de-nuking operations.

ISBN 90-5087-027-9

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