The architect of Pakistan’s nuclear program on Tuesday rejected a report alleging that his network may have shared blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon with countries such as Iran and North Korea.
Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone, Abdul Qadeer Khan described the report issued Monday as a “pack of lies” and lashed out at its author, former top U.N. arms inspector David Albright.
“It is all concoction, it is a pack of lies, and this is a campaign. Whenever they see Pakistan can be pressured, they pressure it,” Khan said from the Islamabad villa where he is under house arrest. “The previous government has been succumbing to such pressure.”
The 72-year-old Khan is a hero in the eyes of many Pakistanis for his pivotal role in developing the Islamic nation’s nuclear bomb. He was detained in December 2003, however, and admitted in early 2004 that he operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
Khan has opened up to the media since Pakistan’s new civilian government took power this year, eclipsing the dominance of President Pervez Musharraf.
Critical of Musharraf
The scientist has been strongly critical of Musharraf, a former general who pardoned Khan but ordered his detention after the U.S. and the U.N. nuclear watchdog presented Pakistan with evidence of his proliferation activities. The government, however, has refused to let outsiders such as the International Atomic Energy Agency directly question him.
Khan made a rare trip out of his home in May, when he was allowed to visit the Academy of Sciences in the capital, Islamabad, to express condolences over the death of a former colleague.
Unanswered questions remain about the technology that Khan’s network shared with nations such as North Korea and Iran, and whether Pakistani authorities knew what he was doing or profited from sales.
Khan’s network was largely dismantled in 2004 and in the investigation of its operations Swiss officials seized computers and files from three brothers accused of smuggling for the network. By 2006 the files had been deciphered and among them was a detailed design for an advanced but small nuclear warhead.
Albright told The Associated Press on Monday that the design goes far beyond the schematics and information about nuclear weapons available on the Internet.
“It’s a very different category of information, and it’s very dangerous,” he said. “There are no other designs out there. There is very little information of this quality out there outside of the nuclear weapons states.”
The drawings were recently destroyed by the Swiss government under the supervision of the IAEA to keep them out of terrorists’ hands. But U.N. officials said they could not rule out that the material already had been shared.
Khan, who gave the interview in Urdu, claimed Albright’s report was funded by the CIA and was an attempt by the United States to spread negative propaganda about Pakistan.
“He (Albright) has been writing against Pakistan for years since we started our program,” Khan said.
“This is all lies. We never made any compact (device). In the beginning, we made a simple weapon in 1983, and we never made it again or changed it,” he said.
However, in Vienna, a senior diplomat said the IAEA had knowledge of the existence of a sophisticated nuclear weapons design being peddled electronically by the black-market ring as far back as 2005. The diplomat, who is familiar with the investigations into the Khan network, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly on the issue.
In his recent interviews, Khan has denied doing anything unauthorized, but has declined to discuss whether other Pakistani government and military officials knew of his activities.
“Right now I only want to say that I did nothing wrong,” he told the AP.