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Pak passes nuke leak buck to ‘greedy’ scientists

Islamabad, Dec. 23: Pakistan admitted today that scientists involved in its atom bomb programme may have been driven by “personal ambition or greed” to export technology to Iran, but added the government had no part in any such deals.

“There are several countries mentioned in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) report in connection with supply of nuclear-related technology to Iran and it is important to see if these states have also been approached,” foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said at his press briefing.

He said it began questioning scientists from a state-run laboratory set up by the father of its bomb programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan, five to six weeks ago after approaches by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and information from the Iranian government that “pointed to certain individuals”.

“There are indications that certain individuals might have been motivated by personal ambition or greed. But we have not made a final determination,” he said. Masood Khan stressed that the government itself had never been involved in nuclear proliferation. “It takes its responsibility as a nuclear weapons state very seriously,” he said.

“The government of Pakistan has not authorised or initiated any transfers of sensitive nuclear technology or information to other countries,” he said. “This is out of the question.”

On Monday, Islamabad revealed that Abdul Qadeer Khan, revered as a national hero for developing a nuclear bomb, was being questioned in connection with “debriefings” of several scientists working at his laboratories.

“Neither is he undergoing normal debriefings nor has there been any restrictions imposed on him,” the spokesman said, adding that the debriefings will help ascertain the veracity of the IAEA report.

Masood Khan did not disclose any names or the number of scientists taking part in the debriefings, saying: “The number of people being investigated is very small”. However, recent press reports identified them as Muhammad Farooq, Yasin Chohan and Saeed.

Officials at the London Institute of Strategic Studies said the blueprints of the Iranian uranium enrichment facility, which the IAEA reviewed recently, showed a type of centrifuge that is nearly identical to a machine used by Pakistan in its nuclear programme.

“Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapons state which never authorised or initiated any transfers of sensitive nuclear technology or information to other countries,” Masood Khan said. He added that Islamabad had a very strong command and control system and a stringent export control regime.

The spokesman said none of the Pakistani institutions had ever been involved in illegal transfer of nuclear technology. But there are indications that personal ambitions and greed may have motivated certain individuals.

Khan also denied involvement of any foreign agency in the debriefing of the scientists.

He added that the debriefings were purely an in-house exercise aimed at probing the alleged transfers and collecting data in order to ascertain the veracity of the report. He said strict action would be taken against all those found involved in such transfers.

Tehran, accused by Washington of trying to develop nuclear weapons, told the IAEA it had got them from a “middleman” whose identity the agency has not determined.

The probe and inquiry is expected to focus not only on Pakistani nationals but also on a number of European sources and individuals including three German businessmen and a Sri Lankan who also allegedly played a role in leaking secret nuclear information to Iran.

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