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2/17/04 - PAKISTAN AND NUCLEAR WEAPONS - 2004-02-18

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, admitted to passing nuclear technology to other countries. According to George Tenet, director of U-S Central Intelligence, the network developed by Mr. Khan "was shaving years off the nuclear development timeline of several states, including North Korea, Iran, and Libya.”

Mr. Khan reportedly made numerous trips to North Korea in attempts to trade Pakistan’s nuclear knowledge for North Korea’s ballistic missiles. He and his associates sold secrets from the Pakistani government. They included blueprints for centrifuges, devices used in the production of enriched uranium for use in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. “They found eager customers,” says President George W. Bush, “in outlaw regimes”:

“The network sold uranium hexafluoride, the gas that the centrifuge process can transform into enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. Khan and his associates provided Iran and Libya and North Korea with designs for Pakistan’s older centrifuges, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models. The network also provided these countries with components, and in some cases, with complete centrifuges.”

To increase their profits, Khan and his associates used a factory in Malaysia to manufacture centrifuge parts. Other nuclear weapons-related items were purchased through network operatives based in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

“Governments around the world worked closely,” says President Bush, “to unravel the Khan network and put an end to his criminal enterprise”:

“A.Q. Khan has confessed his crimes, and his top associates are out of business. The government of Pakistan is interrogating the network’s members, learning critical details that will help them prevent it from ever operating again.”

Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, has promised to share what he learns about the Khan network with other governments and with the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has made assurances that steps will be taken to prevent others from doing what Abdul Qadeer Khan did. In light of what’s been revealed about Mr. Khan’s activities, many will be watching to see if Pakistan keeps these pledges.