- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

The existence of an underground market for nuclear equipment and technology sparked fears yesterday that atomic and other weapons of mass destruction could fall easily into the hands of terrorists and states with the money to buy them.

David Kay, the former U.S. chief weapons inspector for Iraq, accused Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan of running “a Sam’s Club for nuclear weapons.”

Mr. Khan has admitted spreading weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

“We need to unravel this foreign procurement network that is operating around the world,” Mr. Kay told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He said he was dismayed that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf yesterday had decided to pardon the scientist.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that Mr. Khan had not been working alone.

“There were items that were manufactured in other countries, items that were reassembled in different countries,” he told reporters at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

Mr. Kay said the idea that someone such as Mr. Khan could outsource weapons production to countries such as Malaysia was of grave concern.

CIA Director George J. Tenet, under fire over intelligence estimates on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, said yesterday that U.S. intelligence had penetrated Mr. Khan’s network through a series of “daring operations”.

“We discovered the extent of Khan’s hidden network. We tagged the proliferators. We detected the network, stretching across four continents, offering its wares to countries like North Korea and Iran,” he said.

Working with British intelligence, “we pieced together the picture of the network, revealing its subsidiaries, its scientists, its front companies, its agents, its finances and manufacturing plants on three continents,” Mr. Tenet said in a speech at Georgetown University.

He praised the intelligence breakthroughs that revealed the extent of nuclear weapons and missile programs in North Korea, Iran and Libya, adding that Mr. Khan’s operation “was shaving years off the nuclear-weapons development timelines of several states, including Libya.”

Gen. Musharraf let Mr. Khan, known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program, off the hook after he admitted on national television that he had peddled the technology on the black market. Some in Washington think the pardon was part of a deal.

“This is the biggest break we’ve had,” said one State Department official, as Mr. Khan disclosed the extent of his weapons-technology proliferation.

“He has already affected a lot of things, like North Korea” and its use of centrifuges in its nuclear-weapons program, the official said on the condition of anonymity. “It gives credibility to our assertions on North Korea.”

Malaysia said yesterday that it was looking into reports that a company controlled by the prime minister’s son was linked to the international black market and in supplying components to Libya’s nuclear program, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Tenet said Malaysian authorities had shut down one of Mr. Khan’s network’s largest plants.

The United States has introduced to the U.N. Security Council a resolution to ban the transfer of weapons-of-mass-destruction technology and materials to nonstate groups and rogue governments, but the council is a long way from approving the draft, diplomats say.

“I would say it’s in abeyance,” said one council envoy.

Betsy Pisik contributed to this report from New York.

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