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US seeks access to disgraced Pak nuke scientist

By Lalit K Jha
September 24, 2010 02:09 IST
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The US stepped up pressure on Pakistan to get access to disgraced nuclear scientist A Q Khan, accused of proliferating nuke technologies to Iran and North Korea, for questioning.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing, Cameron Munter, nominated by the US President Barack Obama, to be his next Ambassador to Pakistan told Senators in response to a question
that getting access to Khan would be a tough order.

Last year Khan was slapped with sanctions by the United States for his alleged nuclear proliferation roles through his Khan network that provided nuclear secrets to some of the 'rogue' state like North Korea.

"This is a key area where, to be honest, I don't think we've made a lot of progress with the Pakistanis. I intend to raise the question again of our repeated requests to have our people be able to interview Khan," Munter said in response to a question from Senator Richard Lugar, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

We've from time to time lamented the work of A Q Khan and his work with others, for that matter, to spread the technology of nuclear weapons and potential for difficulty in a host of countries.

My understanding is that he is free of house arrest now, still considered in heroic status in Pakistan," Lugar said.

"We have dealt essentially today with economic and political questions and development of civil society. But a very large part of the relationship that the United States has with Pakistan and in that matter, from other countries, frequently comes down to nonproliferation, at least the inventory and control of weapons of mass destruction because of the potential for this to create, not only violence for specific countries involved, but a spreading of this for others who wish defences and wish to have a more international regulation," he said.

"This is a question which is entirely speculative for the future, but one which I suspect that you're prepared to attempt to work with the Pakistani government as all of the rest of the world comes to conferences such as we had in Washington this time on nonproliferation.

Countries pledged to, in essence, ship back various weapons or materials or so forth fully in transparency with the other countries who were in the conference so that the world might safer as opposed to there being questions as to whether it might be less safe if proliferation occurs," Lugar said asking Munter if this was one of his priorities.

"The point being that we're trying to communicate the idea that this is an issue that is an issue for everyone, not just an American favor asked of Pakistan, but something that American-Pakistani partnership, if we're able to build it, this must be a part of it as well," Munter responded.

"In addition, the fissile material control treaty, which is, in fact, being blocked at certain times or certainly is being held back by the Pakistanis -- this is not something that -- we think makes sense.

We urged them to be constructive in this area, once again, not because they're doing it for us in a transactional way, but because this is something that's of interest to everyone in the world, not just Americans, but the international community and Pakistan itself," Munter stressed.

"If confirmed, I'll address this. But again, I think this is going to be a very tall order.I think we've had real difficulties on this in the past. But we've got to stay on it," Munter told the Senators.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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