- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan A prominent Pakistani nuclear scientist who has criticized his nation for developing nuclear weapons says he doubts North Korea needs Pakistan's help to make its own atom bombs.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor at the Quaid-i-Azam University, said: "Nuclear technology is not very difficult. In a few years, almost every country in the world is going to have it."

His remarks follow reports that Pakistan supplied North Korean with equipment, including centrifuge machines used to make weapons-grade uranium in exchange for rockets and missile technology.

President Pervez Musharraf denied the reports.

Mr. Hoodbhoy, who has criticized his own country and India for their game of nuclear brinkmanship in the recent military standoff, conceded that U.S. officials had a seemingly plausible theory of a Pakistani-North Korean exchange in the 1990s.

"You know, the Pakistani Ghauri missile is based on the North Korean Nodong," he said.

It was conceivable that Islamabad paid for the missile technology by supplying Pyongyang with uranium-enrichment technology, but the nuclear programs of the two countries are so small that it would be easy for both sides to hide any collaboration. "Only those who are involved would know," he said.

North Korea recently shocked the world by admitting to U.S. officials that it had begun refining bomb-grade uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement to give up nuclear weapons.

Mr. Hoodbhoy said there are sources other than Pakistan for the North Koreans to acquire uranium-enrichment technology. "There are the Chinese, for example," he said.

An Indian analyst, meanwhile, suggested that Pakistan had earlier acquired its uranium-enrichment technology by stealing it from the Russians.

B. Raman, director of the Institute of Topical Studies in Chennai, India, said in an article reprinted in the Lahore newspaper the Weekly Independent that a Pakistani intelligence operative, retired Maj. Gen. Sultan Habib, "had distinguished himself in the clandestine procurement and theft" of nuclear material while posted as defense attache in the Pakistani Embassy in Moscow from 1991 to 1993.

Mr. Raman does not provide his sources but said Gen. Habib was later "posted as ambassador to North Korea to oversee the clandestine nuclear and missile cooperation between North Korea and Pakistan."

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