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Nuclear chief 'denies smuggling'

Abdul Qadeer Khan is revered as Pakistan's
Abdul Qadeer Khan is revered as Pakistan's "father of the bomb."

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A Pakistani scientist confesses to using a virtual nuclear black market to transfer nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya.
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LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's top nuclear scientist has denied giving nuclear technology to any other country or confessing to officials, an opposition party leader has said.

Earlier a government official said Abdul Qadeer Khan confessed to smuggling equipment to Iran, Libya, North Korea and Malaysia and was being detained at his home in Islamabad. The official said Khan was not allowed to leave his home or use the telephone.

But on Tuesday, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, who heads the opposition MMA party, said he spoke to Khan by phone and that the scientist -- considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear program -- said the allegations were not true.

"He has clearly denied it, that he has never transferred the technology and he has never given any statement, confession," Ahmad said.

Ahmad said he was an old friend of Khan's and called him to ask how he was holding up. He quoted Khan as saying he is well but being held under surveillance.

Ahmad said there would be a general strike in Pakistan on February 6 to protest against the government's treatment of Khan.

Journalists who attended a closed briefing on Sunday said military officials insisted they were not aware of Khan's alleged activities. They admitted there were intelligence lapses but said they had no prior knowledge of them.

Government officials have said Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf will disclose details of Khan's confession.

The transfers of nuclear technology were made to Iran, North Korea, Libya and continued until 2000, the officials said.

They said weapons-related designs and components were smuggled to Iran in the late 1980s and early 1990s and that nuclear technology was transferred to North Korea and Libya in the 1990s.

The military officials said Sunday their information was based on debriefing sessions with Khan. In addition they said they had independent confirmation of some of the transfers.

They said Khan met and briefed scientists from the other countries and oversaw a web of transfers.

The officials allege direct shipments of nuclear hardware were made from Pakistan through Dubai and the Persian Gulf to North Korea.

The hardware and technology, they said, was smuggled from Khan Research Lab, a nuclear facility outside of Islamabad.

They said uranium enrichment centrifuges were being produced in Malaysia based on a Pakistani design.

There were a number of middlemen involved in the transfers, the military officials said, including a man now in custody in Malaysia as well as German and Dutch citizens.

The officials said there were mixed shipments that included new centrifuges and centrifuge parts, and that Khan wrote a letter to Iran to destroy facilities once Pakistani officials opened an investigation.

The military officials said they raided a plane Khan chartered to North Korea but found nothing.


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