A Q Khan in Media Limelight again: IAEA Disclosures
AFP, September 12, 2008
VIENNA (AFP) — Libya, which abandoned a clandestine nuclear weapons programme in 2003, was in contact with the black market network of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan much earlier than first thought, a new report by the UN atomic watchdog revealed Friday.
According to a restricted report by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, Libya's contacts with Khan date back to 1984, more than 10 years earlier than previously assumed.
The report, which was circulated to the IAEA's board of governors Friday, said that Libyan officials met with Khan in January 1984.
"During this meeting, Khan described to a senior Libyan official the technologies for acquiring nuclear material, and the necessary resources and capabilities, and offered to sell Libya centrifuge enrichment technology," the report said.
Uranium gas centrifuges are used to enrich uranium, which can be used to make the fissile material for an atomic bomb.
However, "according to Libya, the Libyan official felt that the scientific and industrial requirements were too demanding for Libya in terms of resources and technological capabilities at that time, and a decision was made not to pursue the offer," it said.
Further "senior level contacts" took place between Libya and Khan between 1989 and 1991, in which Libya acquired information on first-generation centrifuges.
"According to Libya, however, the Libyan authorities felt that the value of the information provided by Khan was not commensurate with what Libya had paid for it. No complete centrifuges were delivered to Libya as part of this deal."
It was only in 1995 that Libya re-established contact with Khan and his network to acquire more efficient second-generation centrifuges, the report said.
In December 2003, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi stunned the world by renouncing Tripoli's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. Libya's subsequent cooperation with IAEA inspectors has helped unravel Khan's network.
In 2004, the now disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear programme confessed to running an international nuclear smuggling ring and passing nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya. He has been under house arrest in Islamabad since then.
Earlier this year, Khan retracted his confession claiming it was forced, and asserted he only gave Tehran and Tripoli advice on where to get atomic know-how.
In its report Friday, the IAEA said that Khan's network possessed "a substantial amount of sensitive information related to the fabrication of a nuclear weapon."
Much of this sensitive information existed in electronic form, the agency said, a fact which the IAEA found "disturbing" because it would make the information easier to disseminate and to hide.
Libya insists it has never carried out any work on the study or development of an actual nuclear weapon. And in its report, the IAEA confirmed that it had indeed found no evidence of such work.
A result, ElBaradei concluded there were no outstanding issues in the IAEA's investigation of Tripoli's weapons programme and praised Libya's cooperation in the inspectors' probe.
For the past five years, the IAEA has similarly been investigating Iran's nuclear programme, which western countries fear is being used as a guise to develop an atomic bomb.
Unlike Libya's case, agency officials have often complained about Iran's lack of openness and perceived foot-dragging in investigations.
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