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N. Korea Accuses Washington of Engineering Confession by Pakistani Nuclear Scientist - 2004-02-10


North Korea is accusing the United States of orchestrating Pakistan's recent admission that its top scientist sold nuclear secrets to the communist nation. Pyongyang charges the story is a tactic ahead of six-way talks in Beijing to pressure North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry Tuesday denied having received nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan, calling it U.S. propaganda.

Last week, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, received a conditional pardon after publicly confessing he passed nuclear secrets to North Korea and other nations.

But in a statement on the official Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang refuted the confession as a "sheer lie." KCNA says Washington is "hyping" Mr. Khan's story to justify the U.S. view that North Korea has a program to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs.

North Korea has not officially admitted it has a uranium-based program, but has touted it has developed a plutonium-based nuclear deterrent.

The United States demands that all North Korean nuclear programs be dismantled - which violate international agreements. This could be a major obstacle when officials from the United States, China, Russia, Japan and both Koreas meet for talks in Beijing on February 25.

North Korea on Tuesday also demanded that Japan be excluded from the Beijing talks because it recently passed a law allowing Tokyo to slap unilateral sanctions on North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi dismissed the demand, saying that Japan hopes to resolve nuclear, missile and other outstanding issues comprehensively under a 2002 bilateral treaty, so the two countries can establish official diplomatic ties.

Meantime, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told The New York Times in a report published Tuesday that he suspected for at least three years that Mr. Khan was passing nuclear secrets to other nations.

He said that is why he forced Mr. Khan to retire as head of the nuclear weapons lab in March 2001. But the Pakistani leader said he did not have hard evidence to launch an investigation until the United States shared intelligence with his government in October.

The United States has supported Mr. Musharraf's handling of the Khan case, saying both countries are working to uproot the black-market nuclear network.

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