Jun 162008

WASHINGTON: American and international investigators said they had found electronic blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon on computers belonging to the nuclear smuggling network run by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan but they had not been able to determine whether they were sold to Iran or the smuggling ring’s other customers, New York Times reported.
The plans appear to closely resemble a nuclear weapon that was built by Pakistan and first tested exactly a decade ago. But when confronted with the design by officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency last year, Pakistani officials insisted that Dr Khan did not have access to Pakistan’s weapons designs, the report said.

In interviews in Vienna, Islamabad and Washington over the past year, officials have said the weapons design was far more sophisticated than the blueprints discovered in Libya in 2003, when Col Muammar el-Qaddafi gave up his country’s nuclear weapons programme. Those blueprints were for a Chinese nuclear weapon that dated to the mid-1960s, and investigators found that Libya had obtained them from the Khan network.

But the latest design found on Khan network computers in Switzerland, Bangkok and several other cities around the world is half the size and twice the power of the Chinese weapon, with far more modern electronics, the investigators say. The design is in electronic form, they said, making it easy to copy – and they have no idea how many copies of it are now in circulation.

Investigators said the evidence that the ‘Khan network’ was trafficking in a tested, compact and efficient bomb design was particularly alarming, because if a country or group obtained the bomb design, the technological information would significantly shorten the time needed to build a weapon. Among the missiles that could carry the smaller weapon, according to some weapons experts, is the Iranian Shahab III, which is based on a North Korean design.

However, in recent days, top American intelligence officials, who declined to speak about the discovery on the record because the information is classified, said they had been unable to determine whether Iran or other countries had obtained the weapons design.

Pakistan has refused to allow American investigators to directly interview Dr Khan, who is considered a hero there as the father of its nuclear programme. In recent weeks the only communications about him between the US and Pakistan’s new government have been warnings from Washington not to allow him to be released.

The existence of the compact bomb design began to become public in recent weeks after Switzerland announced that it had destroyed a huge stockpile of documents, including a weapons design, that were found in the computers of a family in Switzerland, the Tinners, who over the years played critical roles in Khan’s operation

Source: The News, 16/6/2008


 Posted by at 8:58 am

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