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Nuclear scandal: Man 'confesses'

Tahir alleged to be chief financier of global nuclear trafficking network.
Tahir alleged to be chief financier of global nuclear trafficking network.

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(CNN) -- Malaysian police say a Dubai-based businessman has confessed to helping a top Pakistani scientist sell nuclear secrets and supplies to Iran and Libya.

Friday's report of the confession by Buhary Syed Abu Tahir came a week after U.S. President George W. Bush named the 44-year-old Sri Lankan as the middleman representing Abdul Qadeer Khan -- the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb -- in his black market network.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf had previously said A.Q. Khan acted alone in selling atomic secrets to other countries, but many in Pakistan and outside doubted this.

Now, according to a detailed report released Friday by Malaysian police, Tahir -- who has residency status in Malaysia -- said Khan sold nuclear parts to Iran for about $3 million in cash, and he served as the middleman.

Tahir remains a free man in Malaysia because authorities in the Southeast Asia say he has not broken any laws in that country.

The latest revelations follow an announcement Thursday by a senior Bush administration official that U.N. nuclear inspectors had found sophisticated uranium enrichment parts in Iran, a claim Tehran denies. (Full story)

"[Khan] had asked B.S.A. Tahir to send two containers of used centrifuge units from Pakistan to Iran," the statement by Malaysian police said.

"B.S.A. Tahir organized the transshipment of the two containers from Dubai to Iran using a merchant ship owned by a company in Iran."

According to Tahir's account, Iran paid Khan cash transported in two briefcases and left in Khan's apartment in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The arrangement happened in 1995, Tahir said, shortly after he started his involvement with the Pakistani nuclear expert.

Tahir also told Malaysian authorities that Khan had arranged for enriched uranium and centrifuge units to be sent directly by air from Pakistan to Libya in 2001-02.

He also named several businessmen from Germany, Turkey, Switzerland and the United Kingdom as part of the "loose network" of middlemen that helped procure the nuclear equipment for Khan.

Since Khan's February 4 shock confession that he transferred Pakistan's nuclear weapons secrets to other countries, authorities around the world -- from Pakistan to China to Malaysia -- have been working to uncover the full extent of the network.

Musharraf pardoned Khan, but analysts say many questions remain over how generals who oversaw the Pakistan's nuclear program that began in the 1970s -- with the aim of creating a military deterrent against rival India -- could have been so in the dark about any nuclear transfers by its scientists.

The mission to create the bomb was conducted in secret, using black market suppliers to circumvent international restrictions on trade in nuclear-related technology. Pakistan conducted its first nuclear test in 1998.

In all, 11 employees of the Khan Research Laboratories, a top nuclear facility named after Khan, have been questioned since November, and some subsequently released.

Officials say three scientists and four security officials -- military officers among them -- are still being investigated. Six are being held in custody at an undisclosed location.

Khan has been told to stay at his Islamabad home, where he is under tight security.

-- CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa contributed to this report

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