Mon, Nov 29, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan defends halting nuclear technology leaks

HOLDING NO WATER The Pakistani government says a CIA report analyzed by `The New York Times' was flimsy and did not reflect their latest security efforts


Pakistan has defended its efforts to halt leaks of nuclear technology amid suggestions that Iran's nuclear weapons program received more help from a renegade Pakistani scientist than previously disclosed.

The CIA -- which provides the US Congress with six-monthly updates on reported efforts by Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria to obtain chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons technology -- posted an unclassified version on its Web site last week.

Analyzing the report, The New York Times said it indicates that bomb-making designs provided by Abdul Qadeer Khan to Iran in the 1990s were more significant than Washington has said.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan criticized the Times report, saying it was "based on flimsy evidence, hearsay and snippets of conversations.

"The CIA report does not mention any `designs for weapons or bomb-making components.' Weapons and bomb-making are the writer's own creative insertions," the spokesman said on Saturday.

"In the past year, Pakistan has conducted an inquiry to unearth an illicit network of international black-marketeers, dismantled it and shared the results of the inquiry transparently with the people of Pakistan.

"Pakistan has been cooperating with the IAEA and the international community to thwart international black-marketeers from proliferating sensitive nuclear technology," Masood Khan said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency -- the UN's nuclear watchdog -- has been investigating Iran's nuclear activities for about 18 months, but the agency remains unable to determine if nearly two decades of Iranian nuclear activities were purely peaceful or if the government had a secret weapons agenda.

Tehran says its activities were for generating electricity, while the US says they were for making weapons.

Iran and European negotiators have reached a tentative compromise committing Tehran to freeze all uranium enrichment activities, diplomats say, but the Iranian government still must approve the deal.

A.Q. Khan, considered a national hero for leading the development of Pakistan's nuclear deterrent, admitted in February to passing nuclear technology to other countries. He was pardoned by President General Pervez Musharraf, who cited his service to the nation, but remains under virtual house arrest in Islamabad.

"Iran's nuclear program received significant assistance in the past from the proliferation network headed by Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan," the CIA report said.

"The A.Q. Khan network provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuges as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models and components," the report said.

It said Libya disclosed receiving similar assistance from Khan, head of Pakistan's nuclear program from the 1970s until 2001.

"Even in cases where states took action to stem such transfers, knowledgeable individuals or non-state purveyors of WMD and missile-related materials and technology could act outside government constraints," the report said.

The Times focused on the phrase "designs for more advanced and efficient models, and components," indicating that "components" refers to weapons components.

The Times said American officials have publicly referred only to the role of A.Q. Khan's network in supplying Iran with designs for older Pakistani centrifuges used to enrich uranium, but that they also suspect it provided a warhead design.

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