Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Pakistan will not grant U.S. requests for direct access to pardoned nuclear supplier Abdul Qadeer Khan, but instead offered alternatives for getting information about his covert network, Pakistan’s ambassador told the United States yesterday.

“The U.S. and Pakistan have been in continuous contact on this particular issue,” Pakistani Ambassador Jehangir Karamat told reporters and editors of The Washington Times. “And in response to the U.S. demand for access to Dr. A.Q. Khan, we have offered alternatives.”

Mr. Karamat also said Pakistan agreed to examine Iranian nuclear components believed to have been supplied by the Khan network. The equipment will be sent from Iran and checked for “signatures” to determine if it originated from the Khan network, he said.

The ambassador said that while he has not had access to debriefing reports from Mr. Khan, “we have reached a conclusion that centrifuges, or centrifuge designs or parts” were obtained by Iran from Mr. Khan’s supplier network.

Mr. Karamat said Pakistan rejected requests for U.S. intelligence officials to question Mr. Khan directly, based on a plea agreement reached with the technician, who is considered the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb and who enjoys popular support in the country.

“We have explained our point of view, and we have suggested alternatives for meeting every single U.S. requirement for information, which is being met,” he said.

In 2003, it was revealed that Mr. Khan headed a covert network that provided nuclear weapons-related technology in places ranging from Malaysia to Pakistan to Germany.

The group provided centrifuge designs and components used in enriching uranium for nuclear weapons. Libya, Iran and North Korea were buyers of Mr. Khan’s equipment and technology.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pardoned Mr. Khan in February 2004 for illegally selling the nuclear goods. Mr. Karamat said yesterday the pardon was given in exchange for a U.S. requirement that Mr. Khan provide full details and continued cooperation in breaking up the supplier network.

“I think the U.S. has been satisfied generally with every requirement being met by Pakistan on the international network,” Mr. Karamat said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the Khan network with Gen. Musharraf during her recent visit to Pakistan, according to a senior Bush administration official who said the United States is “getting all the cooperation we need and have asked for.”

CIA Director Porter J. Goss said last month that investigators have learned new information in recent months about the Khan network, but have not “got to the end of the trail” in learning everything.

Mr. Karamat dismissed a March 16 report by Reuters news agency from Vienna, Austria, where the International Atomic Energy Agency has its headquarters, that quoted officials as saying Pakistan has found new illicit channels to support its nuclear program.

“The only comment I can offer is that Pakistan would have to be very unmindful of the environment if it were to continue anything under the present circumstances,” he said.

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