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Pakistan fires founder of nuclear program

The founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program was removed from his position as a government adviser on Saturday, amid an investigation into allegations of black market dealings with Iran and Libya.
Abdul Qadeer KhanAP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, was removed Saturday from his position as a government adviser amid an investigation into allegations of nuclear proliferation, officials said.

Two government officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Khan was dismissed as a scientific adviser to the prime minister, a post he had held since retiring as head of the country’s top nuclear facility in 2001.

Khan had emerged as a key suspect in an investigation into charges that Pakistani scientists sold nuclear weapons technology. The probe was launched in November following information provided by Iran to the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

It wasn’t immediately clear if further legal action would be taken against Khan or any others accused in the investigation.

The government was expected to make an announcement later Saturday about the investigation. President Gen. Pervez Musharraf was chairing a meeting Saturday of Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which controls the country’s nuclear assets.

Six scientists and security officials from the nuclear facility — the Khan Research Laboratories, named after Khan — are being held in the probe over allegations of nuclear transfers to Iran and Libya. Khan was not arrested, but acquaintances said he has been restricted to the capital, Islamabad.

Musharraf faces tough decision
Analysts have said a decision to punish top scientists, particularly Khan — long revered as the architect of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent against rival India, who gave the Islamic world its first atomic bomb — would be a tough one for Musharraf and would likely trigger an angry reaction from nationalists.

Officials have said that Khan and a top aide, Mohammed Farooq, have failed to account for money in personal bank accounts. Farooq is among the six scientists in custody.

Khan and Farooq have told investigators they didn’t supply any technology to Iran and Libya, and Khan has maintained he did nothing to damage the interests of Pakistan, officials said.

Earlier Saturday, officials had said loose controls at Khan’s laboratory allowed a small number of its employees to profit from the nuclear black market. Those findings were to be reviewed by Musharraf at the Saturday meeting.

Pakistan’s government says it never sanctioned transfers of nuclear technology to other countries and will act against anyone guilty of doing so. The government has publicly acknowledged “one or two people” acted for personal gain.