Wednesday, February 09, 2005

More Arab States May Have Received Nuclear Technology From Khan Black Market Network

Global Security Newswire
U.S. officials are investigating whether the international nuclear network formerly headed by top Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan might have been used to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, Time magazine reported this week (see GSN, Feb. 3).

U.S. investigators have submitted questions to Khan, who has been under house arrest since confessing last year to orchestrating the network that transferred nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea, as to whether Tehran and Pyongyang may have retransferred such items, according to Time. The fear is that one of the client nations might have passed nuclear technology or know-how to terrorists.

Pakistan, however has not allowed either the United States or the International Atomic Energy Agency to question Khan directly.

During a White House meeting in December, U.S. President George W. Bush told Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he believed Khan had not provided full information on the network, according to sources. While Musharraf agreed, he still would not allow non-Pakistani officials to interrogate Khan, Time reported.

Most of the nuclear network is still in place, according to sources close to the Khan Research Laboratories, Pakistan’s top nuclear facility, and a recent investigation of the facility discovered 16 containers of uranium hexafluoride gas missing, sources close to the laboratory said.

“Nothing has changed,” a former aide to Khan said. “The hardware is still available, and the network hasn’t stopped” (Powell/McGirk, Time, Feb. 14).

Pakistan today denied Time’s report that the Khan network might have been used to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

“The story is without facts and baseless,” Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said (Agence France-Presse/, Feb. 7).

Time also reported this week that Khan might have been caught through the aid of a mole inside his organization — the man described as the managing director of the network, Sri Lankan national Buhary Syed Abu Tahir.

“(The U.S.) made a compromise with him,” said a Libyan source. “He will be safe. They won’t touch him, but he had to cooperate.”

Tahir was arrested in Malaysia last year and has been held under a law allowing for infinite detention of those deemed to pose a security threat. He has provided a large amount of information to local authorities on the network, especially in regard to Iran and Libya, Time reported. Malaysia has decided to allow IAEA investigators to directly interrogate Tahir, the agency said last week (Time).

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