- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program has been questioned as part of investigations into whether any scientists leaked sensitive technology to other countries, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Abdul Qadeer Khan is not in custody, but was questioned in connection with “the ongoing debriefing sessions” of a “very small number of scientists,” a ministry spokesman said.

“No restrictions have been imposed on him,” the spokesman said.

Pakistan’s government strongly denies accusations that it spread nuclear technology to countries such as Iran, North Korea and Libya, but acknowledged that individual scientists may have acted without authorization.

At least two scientists from Khan Research Laboratories, the country’s top nuclear laboratory named after its founder, were held for questioning this month — including Mohammed Farooq, its former director-general and aide to Mr. Khan.

Mr. Farooq is still in custody “undergoing a dependability and debriefing session,” the ministry spokesman said.

Pakistan, which carried out nuclear-weapons tests in 1998, “takes its responsibilities as a nuclear-weapons state very seriously,” Information Minister Sheik Rashid Ahmed said.

“The government of Pakistan has not authorized any transfers of sensitive nuclear technology to other countries. We have a strong command-and-control system. Only individuals are being investigated,” he said.

Pakistan’s admission came just days after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s surprise announcement Friday that his country was abandoning its program for weapons of mass destruction.

Libya also agreed to open its nuclear activities to pervasive inspection by the U.N. atomic agency as early as next week.

According to diplomats, the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has identified Russia, China and Pakistan as probable sources for equipment used by Iran for nuclear-weapons development.

Mr. Ahmed said the investigations followed “IAEA reservations and recent news reports in the Western world.”

Iran signed a key accord Thursday that gives U.N. experts full access to its nuclear facilities. That followed international pressure on Iran to prove it had not tried to build atomic weapons.

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