William J. Broad & David E. Sanger – 2004-12-29 23:14:04
(December 26, 2004) — When experts from the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency came upon blueprints for a 10-kiloton atomic bomb in the files of the Libyan weapons program earlier this year, they found themselves caught between gravity and pettiness.
The discovery gave the experts a new appreciation of the audacity of the rogue nuclear network led by A. Q. Khan, a chief architect of Pakistan’s bomb. Intelligence officials had watched Dr. Khan for years and suspected that he was trafficking in machinery for enriching uranium to make fuel for warheads. But the detailed design represented a new level of danger, particularly since the Libyans said he had thrown it in as a deal-sweetener when he sold them $100 million in nuclear gear.
Pakistan’s Nuclear Khan Job
“This was the first time we had ever seen a loose copy of a bomb design that clearly worked,” said one American expert, “and the question was: Who else had it? The Iranians? The Syrians? Al Qaeda?”
But that threat was quickly overshadowed by smaller questions.
The experts from the United States and the I.A.E.A., the United Nations nuclear watchdog – in a reverberation of their differences over Iraq’s unconventional weapons – began quarreling over control of the blueprints. The friction was palpable at Libya’s Ministry of Scientific Research, said one participant, when the Americans accused international inspectors of having examined the design before they arrived. After hours of tense negotiation, agreement was reached to keep it in a vault at the Energy Department in Washington, but under I.A.E.A. seal.
It was a sign of things to come.
Pakistan’s Black Market in Nukes
Nearly a year after Dr. Khan’s arrest, secrets of his nuclear black market continue to uncoil, revealing a vast global enterprise. But the inquiry has been hampered by discord between the Bush administration and the nuclear watchdog, and by Washington’s concern that if it pushes too hard for access to Dr. Khan, a national hero in Pakistan, it could destabilize an ally. As a result, much of the urgency has been sapped from the investigation, helping keep hidden the full dimensions of the activities of Dr. Khan and his associates….
Cooperation between the United Nations atomic agency and the United States has trickled to a near halt, particularly as the Bush administration tries to unseat the I.A.E.A. director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, who did not support the White House’s prewar intelligence assessments on Iraq….
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