- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

From combined dispatches

ISLAMABAD — A clandestine network run by the disgraced father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb and used to supply nuclear technology abroad must be destroyed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

“It is a network that we want to make certain that its tentacles are broken up as well, and so we have cooperation with a number of countries on that front,” she told reporters.

Miss Rice, in Pakistan for talks with President Pervez Musharraf as part of her first tour of Asia as secretary of state, said Islamabad had cooperated in investigating the scandal involving Abdul Qadeer Khan.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that A.Q. Khan represented a threat, not just to the United States, but to Pakistan, to the region, to the international community as a whole,” she said.

Pakistan first successfully tested a nuclear weapon in 1998, and Mr. Khan admitted last year to using a clandestine procurement network to supply Iran, Libya and North Korea with nuclear technology.

Mr. Khan is being kept under virtual house arrest in Islamabad, but Pakistan, a major U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, has not let foreign investigators question him.

“We have had cooperation with Pakistan to try and make sure that the A.Q. Khan network is broken up, to get as much information as is possible,” Miss Rice said.

Asked whether the Khan scandal would have any bearing on a long-standing Pakistani request for F-16 fighters, Miss Rice did not respond directly, but said she had held a broad discussion with Pakistani leaders about their defense needs.

Washington blocked sales of F-16s to Pakistan in 1990 as a sanction against its nuclear program. The United States is considering supplying the aircraft to India.

Earlier, as Miss Rice made a six-hour visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, a bomb killed five persons in the southern city of Kandahar and President Hamid Karzai announced a delay in parliamentary elections, underlining the challenges for Afghanistan more than three years after the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime.

The parliamentary vote was scheduled for May, but the United Nations and the Afghan electoral commission have been grappling with problems, including a lack of census data and how to register thousands of returning refugees.

“The preparations are going on and now they told us, the commission chairman, that the elections will be held in September,” Mr. Karzai said at a press conference with Miss Rice at his Kabul palace.

“The Afghan people are waiting very eagerly to send their members to parliament.”

The bombing yesterday occurred 10 days after a British consultant to the Afghan government was assassinated in Kabul, casting doubt on assertions by Mr. Karzai and the U.S. military that the country is becoming secure.

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