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Pakistan Detains Aide to Top Scientist in Nuclear Probe - 2004-01-18

Pakistani authorities have detained a senior aide to Pakistan's top nuclear scientist as they probe the alleged leaks of nuclear information to Iran.

The detainee, Major Islam ul-Haq, is the top staff officer to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb. Mr. Haq's wife told VOA that her husband, a former military officer, was arrested at Mr. Khan's home Saturday evening.

Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Sunday that two other former military officers are also being debriefed, along with five scientists.

Pakistan, which is a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, has already questioned Mr. Khan and other top scientists in connection with Iran's assertion that it got nuclear help from Islamabad. Iran says the assistance came in the form of help in purchasing equipment for its nuclear program.

While denying the charges of government help to Iran, Islamabad says some of its scientists may have acted individually to help other countries develop nuclear programs.

Saturday's detention of Major Islam ul-Haq came hours after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told parliament his government faces serious international accusations of spreading nuclear technology. He said that Pakistan must assure the world that it will not allow the proliferation of nuclear weaponry.

A dispute between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency became public in early August, as IAEA investigators probed Iran for its alleged attempts to develop a nuclear weapons program. Iran has steadfastly insisted its nuclear research and development is for peaceful purposes.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.