Pakistan says Khan supplied key nuclear technology to Iran

Pakistan: Pakistan acknowledged for the first time yesterday that its disgraced nuclear scientist provided Iran with centrifuges…

Pakistan: Pakistan acknowledged for the first time yesterday that its disgraced nuclear scientist provided Iran with centrifuges that can be used to make atomic weapons.

AQ Khan, the man who developed the bomb for Pakistan, was exposed last year as the main supplier to an international black market through which nuclear technology was being proliferated.

Iran has long been the main suspected beneficiary of this trade, along with North Korea.

Centrifuges purify uranium for use as fuel in atomic power plants or bombs. Washington believes Iran's centrifuge programme, which it concealed from UN inspectors for nearly two decades, is at the heart of clandestine atom bomb plans.

Tehran says its enrichment programme will produce only low-grade enriched fuel for power plants, not highly enriched uranium for weapons.

"[ Abdul Qadeer Khan] has given centrifuges to Iran, but the government was in no way involved in this," Pakistan's information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said yesterday.

Pakistan has admitted in the past that Dr Khan smuggled nuclear secrets to North Korea, Iran and Libya. But this is the first time Islamabad has admitted he supplied Iran with centrifuges.

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency was not immediately available for comment.

But the agency has long known Dr Khan gave Iran centrifuges but refers to Pakistan in its reports as the "third state" that helped Iran outfit its programme.

The agency has found no clear proof of an Iranian nuclear arms programme, but is not convinced that Iran has declared everything.

One western diplomat in Vienna, where the agency is based, said Dr Khan clearly knew the answer to the question of whether or not Iran wanted the bomb when it first made contact with the Pakistani scientist's clandestine nuclear network in 1987.

"Khan is the man who would know if the Iranians wanted nuclear weapons," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, adding that it was a pity Islamabad refused to allow the UN nuclear agency to question Dr Khan directly.

Diplomats in Vienna said there was no way Islamabad was entirely unaware of Dr Khan's atomic peddling.

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