ISLAMABAD, Feb 4: Dr A.Q. Khan's acceptance of helping North Korea, Iran and Libya in their nuclear programmes may jeopardize the $3 billion US economic and military package promised by President George W. Bush in 2003 and may even result in the re-imposition of sanctions, an official feared here on Wednesday (partly covered in Monday issue).

"The US laws provide automatic sanctions against a country, indulging in nuclear proliferation," the official said during a background briefing, adding that before reaching to any conclusion, the US administration would have to consider the matter retrospectively because the pilferage had stopped after the setting up of an effective nuclear command and control mechanism.

He said that Dr Khan in his signed statement, which he handed over to authorities, had accepted supplying old and discarded centrifuge and enrichment machines together with sets of drawings, sketches, technical data and depleted Hexaflouride (UF6) gas to North Korea. But he categorically denied that Pakistan's missile programme was in any way the result of an exchange of technology with Pyongyang.

Dr Khan, the official said, had also admitted supplying centrifuge and enrichment equipment along with a set of drawings to Iran under pressure of late Gen Imtiaz (then advisor to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on defence (between December 1988 and August 1990).

Official said the proliferation started in 1989-91 because of what he termed the flawed security arrangement.

Between 1997 and 1999, orders were placed for the production of components for centrifuge machines while during 1998-2000, technical assistance was provided to North Korea. Between 1999-2001, intelligence officials had found nothing after they raided a North Korea-bound chartered aircraft. However, Dr A.Q. Khan was alerted by the chief of the general staff and the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence. It was then decided by authorities not to grant further extension to Dr Khan.

After this, the official said, Dr Khan started covering up his tracks and even fired one Dr Zubair from his services.

The official said, in December 2003, after the commencement of the inquiry into the clandestine transfer of nuclear technology, Dr Khan started sending messages to Iran in an attempt to get their corroboration in this regard. Dr Khan even started briefing some KRL scientists, trying to doctor their statements in his favour. Dr Khan, he said, had even prepared a counter strategy to allegedly blackmail the government if pushed to a corner.

The official said in all eleven scientists and security personnel of the KRL had been called for "debriefing" but no third-degree method was used to pressurize them. He also said sessions were also held with former army chiefs Gen Aslam Beg, Jahangir Karamat and Gen Zulfikar (former Wapda chairman) but in no way they were found to be involved in any such activity.

The official said, a few foreign nationals were also found to be involved in the clandestine operations, adding that only six officials were still in custody.

The official said that Dr Khan visited different countries like Dubai (41 times) during the past three years after his retirement but his movement was restricted after receiving credible reports suggesting that CIA or Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) would pick him up.

Terming the KRL security for the past 20 years a one-man show under the command of Brig Tajwar, who was only answerable to Dr Khan, he said the facility was out-of-bound even for the ISI officials.

The official brushed aside the impression that scientists were being debriefed on the US pressure or that these scientists would be handed over to them.

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