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US points Libya finger at Delhi

Washington, April 12: As America turns its attention to other countries with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the wake of its military success against Iraq, allegations about New Delhi’s help to Libya’s missile programme have come under the scanner in Washington.

A report to the US Congress yesterday by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on the acquisition of WMD technology by nations across the globe alleged that Indian entities have helped Libya develop ballistic missiles.

The report said the “suspension of UN sanctions in 1999 allowed Libya to expand its efforts to obtain ballistic missile-related equipment, materials, technology, and expertise from foreign sources”.

It said outside help is critical to these programmes and with assistance from India, Serbia, Iran, North Korea and China, Libya will soon have medium-range ballistic missile or extended-range Scud capability.

The CIA report to the Congress on countries acquiring nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as advanced conventional munitions is mandated under America’s Intelligence Authorisation Act and the period covered by yesterday’s report is the first half of 2002.

In these reports, the CIA usually puts out the bare minimum that it has to share with lawmakers to meet legislative mandate and, therefore, yesterday’s report is silent on details of Indian missile assistance to Libya.

It is clear, however, that the spy agency has much more details about India’s alleged help to Libya, which it has not made public.

A week before the US launched its first air attack on Baghdad, the state department announced penalties on an Indian company, Protech Consultants Pvt Ltd, for “knowingly and materially contributing to Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programme”.

In February, the Americans imposed sanctions on another Indian company, NEC Engineers Pvt Ltd, and its president Hans Raj Shiv for the same reasons.

In the past, such penalties were, more often than not, symbolic and governments or entities which faced them took these in their stride. But after the war in Iraq, such allegations have a more sinister ring and the expectation here is that the CIA report will be seen as such in New Delhi.

The CIA told the Congress: “Chinese entities continued to provide Pakistan with missile-related technical and material assistance... Pakistan has been moving toward domestic serial production of solid-propellant short-range ballistic missiles with the help of Chinese entities”.

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