'Passed on nuclear tech to 2 countries on Benazir's order'

Islamabad, Sep 16: Pakistan's disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan has claimed that he had transferred nuclear technology to 'two countries' on the orders of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto.

"The then Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto summoned me and named the two countries which were to be assisted and issued clear directions in this regard," Khan said in an interview with the Jang media group. He did not name the two countries.

Khan claimed he had no option but to obey Bhutto, who was killed by a suicide attacker in late 2007. "I was not independent but was bound to abide by the orders of the PM, hence I did take this step in compliance with her order," he said. "The PM would have certainly known about the role and cooperation of the two countries, mentioned by her, in our national interest," he claimed.

The transfer of nuclear technology is not easy and at least 800 people supervise the process, said Khan, who was placed under house arrest after he acknowledged in 2004 that he had run a clandestine proliferation ring. Libya and North Korea are among the countries to which Khan's ring supplied nuclear technology and know-how. The People's Party-led government has eased restrictions on Khan over past few years.

Khan has also retracted his confession, claiming he was pressured to acknowledge on TV that he had run a proliferation network.

Khan said former PM Nawaz Sharif, who now claims credit for the 1998 nuclear tests, was "absolutely not ready to conduct" the blasts and didn't want to do so because of fear the US might be annoyed and his government might be threatened.

Through some of his aides, who were also Khan's friends, Sharif tried to convince the scientist to win international sympathy by staying silent in response to Indian nuclear tests in 1998, Khan claimed. "But I made it clear that if he did so, I shall put the facts before the media. After this, Nawaz Sharif was compelled to conduct the nuclear tests."


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