Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Malaysia clears nuclear dealer


Confessed nuclear black marketeer Buhary Syed Abu Tahir is free to leave Malaysia, police said, as authorities abroad widened investigations into his role in a trafficking network that sold nuclear secrets to Iran and Libya.

A three-month police investigation found no evidence that Tahir -- or a Malaysian company he contracted to make parts for Libya's nuclear program -- had broken Malaysian law, national police chief Mohamed Bakri Omar said.

The government said the finding vindicates its claim that US President George W. Bush unfairly singled out Malaysia by naming it in connection to the network, and that the issue should now be put to rest.

But Tahir or his associates are the subject of at least two investigations overseas, and information he gave police added unprecedented detail to what's publicly known about the illicit trade network of Abdul Qadeer Khan. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, has admitted selling technology and know-how to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Mohamed Bakri said police hadn't restricted Tahir's movement in Malaysia or seized his passport. Tahir, 44, is a Sri Lankan citizen.

"We are not imposing anything on him," Mohamed Bakri said late Saturday.

"There is no law to bar anybody from leaving this country," Bakri said.

Swiss police disclosed Friday they'd begun investigating whether engineer Urs Tinner contributed to the production of nuclear weapons. Tinner and his father, Freidrich, both Swiss, were named by Tahir as part of Khan's network. Urs Tinner oversaw the manufacture of more than 25,000 components for Libya's uranium enrichment program -- by a company controlled by the only son of Malaysia's prime minister -- according to the police report of their investigation.

Tahir is also being investigated by authorities in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet state that served as a nuclear testing ground, where an affiliate of his company may have been dealing in highly enriched uranium, authorities there said.

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