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US Satisfied with Pakistan's Nuclear Investigation, says Powell - 2004-02-08


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to President Pervez Musharraf by telephone on Saturday to discuss Islamabad's ongoing probe into Pakistani nuclear proliferation to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

Officials say Mr. Powell conveyed to President Musharraf Washington's "appreciation and satisfaction" over the results of the investigation and the manner in which it is being conducted. Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan told VOA that President Musharraf assured the secretary of state that his country will stand firm against future leaks of nuclear technology.

"The president reiterated Pakistan's strong resolve that no such illicit activities will ever be allowed to take place in the future," she said. "The president and Secretary Powell also said that the United States and Pakistan would continue to support international efforts curb proliferation and to unearth illicit networks involved in such activities."

Following a two-month long government investigation of nearly a dozen nuclear scientists and security officials linked to Pakistan's nuclear program, the creator of the project, Abdul Qadeer Khan, confessed last week on national television to selling nuclear technology information to other countries. He apologized to the nation and said he acted alone, without the knowledge of any government or military officials. Mr. Khan asked for clemency, which President Musharraf approved on Thursday, citing the scientist's contribution to Pakistan's nuclear program.

Spokesman Masood Khan rejects international criticism of Pakistan for granting the pardon to the top scientist. As he put it, the government had to "square Pakistan's international obligations with the contribution Mr. Qadeer Khan made to the country's national security."

"That pardon was given, but it is a conditional pardon," he said. "Dr. A.Q. Khan has cooperated with these investigations in the past and he will continue to cooperate with us. Strict security restrictions have been imposed on Dr. A.Q. Khan. Dr. A.Q. Khan and his associates will not be allowed to resume their activities. That's out of the question."

There are ten other scientists and security officials under investigation. The government has yet to decide their fate.

Pakistani officials say the U.S. Secretary of State is expected to visit Islamabad for further talks on the nuclear proliferation probe. Foreign ministry spokesman Khan says President Musharraf and Mr. Powell discussed a visit, but no date has been fixed yet.

Secretary Powell has described Pakistani scientist Mr. Qadeer Khan, as the biggest of all nuclear proliferators.

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