Agence France-Presse – 2004-09-30 23:42:13
VIENNA (September 30, 2004) — Pakistan has refused to let the UN atomic watchdog interview disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, ringleader of a smuggling network, agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the BBC Thursday.
“We have not been allowed by Pakistan to talk to the man,” ElBaradei, who is director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a BBC World Service interview aired Thursday and monitored by AFP.
It was the first time the IAEA has admitted that Pakistan is refusing to let it see Khan, the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb and ringleader of a trafficking network that supplied Iran, Libya and North Korea with sensitive nuclear technology.
The IAEA has been asking Pakistan regularly to help it investigate the international black market run by Khan, who confessed last February to passing on nuclear secrets.
Pakistan’s cooperation with the probe is crucial in resolving how Iran, and other states like North Korea, have supplied themselves with nuclear parts and technology that can be used to make atomic weapons.
Asked why Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf reportedly said that nobody had asked to question Khan, ElBaradei said: “I can tell my Pakistani friends that I will be happy to send a team tomorrow to talk to him if we can, absolutely.”
ElBaradei said Khan’s network had “more than 30 companies and 30 countries all over the globe involved in this fantastic sophisticated illicit trafficking.”
But ElBaradei said “as far as I know Mr. Khan has not talked to any non-Pakistani until now.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud said in Tehran in August that his country was cooperating with the IAEA probe into Iran’s suspect nuclear programme but ruled out allowing international inspectors into Pakistan.
He pointed out that Pakistan was not a signatory of the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), which mandates the IAEA to monitor compliance with international atomic safeguards.
IAEA inspectors have found traces of highly-enriched uranium inside Iran, leading to suspicions that Iran has been trying to produce nuclear bombs and not just atomic energy as it insists.
But Tehran maintains the traces found their way into the country on equipment bought from Khan’s black market network.
The IAEA wants to take so-called “environmental samples” from Pakistan to compare them with those found in Iran — crucial in verifying Tehran’s claims.
Pakistan has supplied results from sampling it has conducted itself, but has not allowed IAEA inspectors into the country to do their own sampling, ElBaradei said in a report earlier this month.
ElBaradei said the IAEA needed results from its own testing to be able to draw definitive conclusions.
ElBaradei told the BBC that he did not think Iran was an “imminent threat” to make nuclear weapons and that “verification and diplomacy” remain “the only way to resolve” questions about Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
He said Iran was “as far away as any country that has the know-how to enrich uranium . . . maybe one year, maybe two years.”
Enrichment makes uranium fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but can also produce the explosive material for atomic bombs.
. © 2004 Agence France-Presse.
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