Says Army had full knowledge about the equipment; president’s spokesman rejects claim
ISLAMABAD: North Korea received centrifuges from Pakistan in a 2000 shipment supervised by the Army during the rule of President Pervez Musharraf, nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan said on Friday.
Dr Khan told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the uranium enrichment equipment was sent from Pakistan in a North Korean plane which was loaded under the supervision of Pakistani security officials.
His claims contradict his 2004 confession that he was solely responsible for spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, and Pakistan’s repeated denials its Army or government knew about Dr Khan’s nuclear proliferation activities.
Dr Khan said the Army had “complete knowledge” of the shipment of used P-1 centrifuges to North Korea and that it must have been sent with the consent of Musharraf, the then-Army chief.
“It was a North Korean plane, and the Army had complete knowledge about it and the equipment,” Khan said. “It must have gone with his (Musharraf’s) consent.” Dr Khan’s allegations, reported earlier on Friday by the Japanese news agency, Kyodo, are his most controversial yet and could prove deeply embarrassing for both the Army and Musharraf.
Musharraf’s spokesman, Maj-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi, rejected Dr Khan’s claims. “I can say with full confidence that it is all lies and false statements,” he said. The Army declined to give immediate comment on Friday.
Asked why he had taken sole responsibility for the nuclear proliferation, Dr Khan said he had been persuaded that it was in the national interest by friends including PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
Dr Khan said that in return he had been promised complete freedom, but “those promises were not honoured”. The PML-Q president could not immediately be reached for comment. Dr Khan also said he had travelled to North Korea in 1999 with an Army general to buy shoulder-launched missiles from Pyongyang.
Pakistan says it has taken extra steps to tighten its control of its nuclear assets since Dr Khan’s network was uncovered in late 2003. It says a foolproof command and control system is in place so its nuclear assets cannot get into the wrong hands.
But Dr Khan’s bald accusation that the military establishment was in the know adds to widespread scepticism that he could have exported nuclear technology under the radar of Pakistan’s pervasive security apparatus.
“No flight, no equipment could go outside without the clearance from the ISI and SPD and they used to be at the airport, not me,” Dr Khan said, referring to the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and the Strategic Planning Division.
Dr Khan said he had visited North Korea twice, in 1994, and then in 1999, when he was sent to procure missiles during the so-called Kargil conflict. Dr Khan told Kyodo that the missiles were shoulder-fired SA 15 missiles.
Dr Khan told AP that Musharraf had requested him to make the second trip and he did so accompanied on a special plane by an Army general, Iftikhar Hussain Shah. “Since I had good relations with them (North Korea) and they respected me, they gave us 200 missiles after getting them from their Army and those missiles were loaded in the same plane,” Dr Khan said.
He said after the Kargil conflict ended, Pakistan’s government tried to return the missiles to North Korea to avoid paying for them but following his intervention, paid for and kept the weapons.
Dr Khan was bitter in his criticism of Musharraf and confident in his own high standing among Pakistanis despite his 2004 confession. “People still respect me, and if any one has any doubts and thinks himself more popular, he should go with me to Aabpara or Raja Bazaar,” he said.Comparing the reception he would get to that which would be accorded Musharraf, Dr Khan said: “You can cut my nose if his (Musharraf’s) clothes remained untorn.”
Source: The News, 5/7/2008