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Musharraf Denies Role in Nuclear Proliferation - 2004-01-23

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says it appears that Pakistani scientists have sold nuclear secrets to other countries, but he insists that his government has never been involved in any proliferation. General Musharraf has gone to great lengths at a forum of political and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, to reassure the international community that his country's nuclear weapons are in safe hands.

President Musharraf told the World Economic Forum on Thursday that there have been allegations that Pakistani scientists could have transferred nuclear technology to Iran, but he denied any official involvement in the matter.

"Pakistan government has never and will never proliferate," he said. "Having said that, yes, there are certain aspersions on certain scientists, but let me also tell you these scientists of Pakistan are not alone. There are aspersions on other scientists of the world and there's also an aspersion on an entire underworld, which has been producing equipment for proliferation. Therefore, this needs to be investigated."

On Friday, however, General Musharraf went further and told the CNN television network that it now appears that some individual scientists were involved in the technology transfers for personal financial gain.

Pakistan says that, since November, it has been questioning its nuclear scientists about their possible involvement in such activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has also been investigating possible links between the Pakistani and Iranian nuclear programs.

General Musharraf says the Pakistani investigation will be finished in a few weeks. And, while acknowledging that Pakistani scientists appear to have sold secret information or materials, he also said Pakistan is not the only country involved. He repeated his assertion that European scientists and countries are also alleged to have transferred nuclear technology.

The Dutch government said earlier this week that there are indications North Korea and Libya may have acquired nuclear technology developed by the multinational European consortium, Urinco, that Pakistan and Iran are known to possess. The father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, once worked for Urinco, but left in the 1980s.

Asked if Pakistani scientists may have also transferred technology to Libya and North Korea, General Musharraf says the investigation is looking into that possibility. He says Pakistani investigators have gone to Iran and Libya and are in contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Pakistani president says anyone who is found to have engaged in nuclear proliferation will be considered an enemy of the state and will be punished.

The United States suspects Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb under cover of an atomic energy program Iran says is for peaceful uses only. It is uncertain whether North Korea already possesses a nuclear weapon. But Libya announced late last year it would cooperate with the United States and Britain in dismantling its weapons program.