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Musharraf Pardons Pakistani Nuclear Scientist Over Leaks - 2004-02-06


Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has issued a pardon for Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the country's nuclear program, who has admitted leaking nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

General Musharraf told a news conference (Thursday) that there is a written mercy appeal from Mr. Khan's side and there is a written pardon from his side. The president said Mr. Khan will not be handed over to any other country for interrogation.

He also said Pakistan would not submit to any United Nations supervision of its weapons program, and that no documents would be handed over to the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. He further ruled out an independent investigation of the military's role in proliferation.

In Washington, CIA Director George Tenet said the Khan affair was only exposed after U.S. and British spies penetrated his proliferation network, which stretched across four continents.

President Musharraf pardoned Mr. Khan after the cabinet recommended clemency for the scientist, who is considered a national hero in Pakistan.

Mr. Khan made a dramatic personal apology on state television Wednesday and absolved Islamabad and fellow scientists of any responsibility for the technology transfers to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

He said he is fully responsible for the proliferation activities at Pakistan's main nuclear research laboratory, which he headed from the 1970's until his retirement in 2001.

Many in Pakistan believe Mr. Khan could not have sold nuclear secrets and sent technology abroad without the knowledge of top military officials. The Islamic opposition says Mr. Khan had been treated as a scapegoat.

Ten more Pakistani scientists are being interrogated for leaking similar secrets.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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