Leading news agency joins media chorus denigrating Pakistan
WASHINGTON: The Associated Press, America’s principal news agency, has joined the media chorus denigrating Pakistan’s nuclear safety and reliability record.
The agency reports from Washington that as “the Bush administration works to crack down on the international trade in weapons of mass destruction, it faces a dilemma: a vital ally in the war on terror - Pakistan - appears to have been a main supplier of nuclear know-how to Libya and possibly Iran and North Korea.”
Anonymous officials told AP that many of the names probably will be Pakistani. They say evidence points to Pakistani nuclear experts as the source of at least some technology that Libya used, and similar reports have arisen about probable Pakistani assistance to Iran and North Korea. “This ought to get front-and-center attention,” said Henry Sokolski, a Pentagon arms control official in the first Bush administration.
The report says the United States has shown Pakistan evidence that its scientists were involved in the spread of nuclear weapons technology, Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week. Powell said he didn’t have enough information to say whether Pakistan was a source for Libya’s programme.
According to the report, “Pakistan presents a difficult diplomatic problem for Washington. Critics say the idea that a major ally is giving nuclear technology to three countries on Washington’s list of terror exporters is an embarrassment to President Bush, who has argued his top priority is keeping weapons of mass destruction away from terrorists and rogue states. They want the Bush administration to lean harder on Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, to stop his country’s clandestine nuclear activities. ‘These activities were tightly held, state-run activities,’ said Sokolski, who now heads the Non-proliferation Policy Education Centre in Washington. ‘The idea that they would be shared with countries of this sort, without the knowledge of people senior in the government, strikes me as very unlikely.’
Other experts say, the report continues, that if Washington pushes Musharraf too far, Pakistan could scale back its anti-terrorism help. In a worst-case scenario, Musharraf could fall, and Islamic extremists hostile to the United States could get their hands on Pakistan’s nuclear technology. “How do you stop Pakistan? No one has found a way,” said David Albright, a former United Nations nuclear inspector. “We have this set of conflicting priorities. The United States is reluctant to crack down too hard.”
The report says, “At issue are high-speed centrifuges that can separate uranium into its highly enriched form to be used in nuclear bombs. (Dr A.Q.) Khan helped start Pakistan’s programme when he stole uranium centrifuge designs in the 1970s from Urenco, a European uranium processing consortium. Among evidence pointing to Pakistan’s proliferation is that centrifuges and centrifuge parts found in both Iran and Libya are similar to the Urenco designs, both US officials and outside experts say. Pakistani scientists distributed a brochure several years ago offering to sell parts and plans for such centrifuges.” —Khalid Hasan