Dr. A Q Khan Speaks to BBC

Disgraced nuclear expert speaks By Syed Shoaib Hasan
BBC News, Islamabad, May 28, 2008

The disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist, AQ Khan, has said that allegations he passed on nuclear secrets are false.

In a rare interview, he said that there was pressure put on him to accept the charges "in the national interest".

Four years ago he admitted passing on nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

He confessed to using Pakistan as the hub of a large proliferation network. He was then put under house arrest.

'Not free'

President Pervez Musharraf granted him a full pardon, but Western countries believe he did not come clean on the scale of his nuclear activities.

"These are all false allegations," Dr Khan told the BBC Urdu service.

Dr Khan quoted politicians and a former army chief, who said the allegations against the scientist were false and there had been pressure on him to confess.

When asked why he was put under pressure, he said: "If one person takes responsibility, you save the country."

Dr Khan was speaking by telephone from his home in Islamabad.

He said, despite the government's promises, he was still not a free man.

"Freedom means I could go out and meet people."

He said that the stance of the new government was that it could not release him as it did not arrest him.

Forthcoming release

"If it keeps on like this, whenever a government comes in power and says we can't undo what the previous government did, there will be no freedom for anyone," he said.

"When a government takes power it becomes the new government's responsibility."

Asked who was preventing him from being released, his reply was unequivocal.

"There are guards outside, army guards," he said.

Dr Khan has recently been allowed to leave his residence and go out on selective trips, although officials have said he will remain under tight security with no access to foreign investigators

A ban on him talking to the media has also been removed in recent days.

These are believed to be preliminary steps before his forthcoming release.

The move is being anxiously watched by officials from Western nations, especially the United States.

They are keen to question Dr Khan over his the exact scope of his nuclear weapon leaks and are especially keen to investigate his alleged links with al-Qaeda.

He said that when the time comes, he might speak out about the circumstances surrounding his confession.

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