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Article:Pakistani scientist accuses military / He says army hel:/c/a/2008/07/04/MN1H11K73C.DTL
Article:Pakistani scientist accuses military / He says army hel:/c/a/2008/07/04/MN1H11K73C.DTL
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Pakistani scientist accuses military
He says army helped ship nuclear materiel to North Koreans
Munir Ahmad, Associated Press

Saturday, July 5, 2008

(07-05) 04:00 PDT Islamabad, Pakistan --

Pakistan's army under President Pervez Musharraf supervised a shipment of uranium centrifuges to North Korea in 2000, the disgraced architect of Pakistan's atomic weapons program said Friday.

The claim is the most controversial leveled by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who has been agitating in recent months for an end to house arrest and backing off his 2004 confession that he was solely responsible for spreading Pakistan's nuclear arms technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

The retired scientist's comments could prove embarrassing for Pakistan, which has repeatedly denied that the army or government knew about Khan's proliferation activities before they were reported in 2003.

His allegations also could become awkward for the United States in its support for Musharraf, who has been a key U.S. ally in the region but has seen his power and popularity at home slide over the past year from anger over his firings of judges and confrontations with Islamic extremists.

A spokesman for Musharraf - the army chief who seized power in a 1999 coup - rejected Khan's claims, calling them "all lies." But some Pakistani experts have long argued that Khan's network could not have operated without the knowledge of the country's pervasive intelligence agencies.

In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Khan said a shipment of used P-1 centrifuges - which enrich uranium for nuclear warheads - was sent from Pakistan in a North Korean plane that was loaded under the supervision of Pakistani security officials.

"It was a North Korean plane, and the army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment," Khan said. "It must have gone with his (Musharraf's) consent."

His allegations were first reported Friday by the Japanese Kyodo News agency.

Musharraf's spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, disputed Khan's charges. "I can say with full confidence that it is all lies and false statements," Qureshi said.

Khan is regarded as a hero by many Pakistanis for his key role in the program that gave their country the Islamic world's first nuclear bomb in 1998, seen as a deterrent against the atomic arsenal held by neighboring India.

After his 2004 confession and a televised statement of contrition, Khan was pardoned by Musharraf but has effectively been kept under house arrest at his spacious villa in Islamabad.

Since a new civilian government took power after February elections sidelined Musharraf's supporters in parliament, Khan has increasingly spoken out in the media. However, he had not previously implicated anyone or explicitly said that the army was aware of nuclear shipments. His comments Friday appear to stem from his growing frustration over the restrictions on his movements.

Asked about his 2004 statements taking sole responsibility for nuclear proliferation, Khan said he had been persuaded that that was in the national interest by friends, including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, a key figure in the ruling party at the time. Khan said he was promised complete freedom in return, but "those promises were not honored."

Hussain could not be reached for comment Friday.

Pakistan's government insists it has tightened security for its nuclear arms since Khan's network was uncovered, saying a foolproof command and control system is in place to keep the weapons from falling into the wrong hands.

Pakistan has refused to allow outsiders to question Khan, including experts from the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, but says it has shared the findings of its own questioning of the scientist.

This article appeared on page A - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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