Pakistan scientist denies selling nuke blueprint

Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan on Tuesday denied selling blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon to Iran or North Korea, saying that Western countries were to blame.

Khan’s comments came a day after a former arms inspector said in a report that the United States and the United Nations atomic watchdog must be allowed to question Khan to learn if he sold the plans.

“This is all a lie, there is no truth in this. It is total bullshit,” Khan told Agence France-Presse by telephone from his Islamabad villa, where he has been kept under house arrest since confessing to proliferation activities in 2004.

“The Western countries are suppliers of the technology, they sold it, they are the proliferators ... Why don’t they publish juicy stories about Israel.
There is not a single word about Israel on the nuclear issue,” he added.

Former UN arms inspector David Albright said on Monday, after details of his draft report appeared in US newspapers, that there was a danger that Khan might be released without having to answer questions about the sensitive blueprints.

The plans show how to build a warhead compact enough to fit on a ballistic missile.

“Khan may be released from house arrest. And we may never get to the bottom of this,” Albright told CNN television. “So I think it’s very important that we start to put pressure on the governments involved in this to find a way to get to the bottom of it.”

Khan was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2004 after making a televised statement admitting to passing nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya, but has not been allowed out in public.

However, after Musharraf’s allies lost general elections in February, Khan retracted the confession and said that it was forced, while asserting he merely gave Tehran and Tripoli advice on where to get atomic know-how.

The new government has recently relaxed restrictions on Khan, including allowing him to meet friends at a scientific institute and take phone calls, although he remains effectively confined to his house.

“The statement is just aimed at putting pressure on [the] Pakistan government. The story came when there were talks about removing restrictions on me,” said Khan, who was diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

“We never prepared [such blueprints], we are not the designer, we are not the proliferator,” Khan said.

But Albright said that files found on computers by Swiss authorities prosecuting three members of Khan’s network contained information about the compact nuclear warheads.

“It looks like Khan did steal them [blueprints] and try to peddle them,” he said.

According to Albright, the blueprints discovered in 2006 are far more troubling than Khan’s earlier admissions because they offered instructions for building a coveted compact device that could fit atop a ballistic missile.

Such information would be extremely valuable for countries with nuclear ambitions such as Iran or North Korea, providing a shortcut to making smaller atomic weapons, Albright said.—AFP

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