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World - Asia/Pacific

Defector says Pakistan had nuclear 'first strike' plan

graphic July 1, 1998
Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EDT (1615 GMT)

In this story:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A Pakistani nuclear scientist seeking asylum in the United States said Wednesday that he fled out of concern his country was considering a first nuclear strike against India.

Isthikar Khan Chaudryoi, 29, told CNN that he became alarmed after attending a top-secret meeting in April on Pakistan's nuclear strategy

"I came to know that just in a couple of days, an atomic war is beginning in between India and Pakistan," Khan said.

Khan told USA Today that he and four fellow scientists signed a protest letter out of concern Pakistan would use nuclear weapons first.

Jane's Defense Weekly, a British magazine, said the five included the deputy leader of Pakistan's nuclear program. The men had evaded Pakistan's secret service and fled to various Western nations, the report said.

According to USA Today, Khan's four associates are believed to be in England.

Jane's said the five scientists denied being unpatriotic, saying that their sole reason for fleeing the country had been disagreement with plans that included a first strike against Indian military targets.

Pakistan issued a statement denying that any of its nuclear scientists defected. The government called the accusation "of planning to launch a preemptive strike against India ... particularly malicious" and designed to "fuel tensions which already persist at an alarming level."

Assistance from other countries?

Khan's attorney says his client is prepared to provide details to U.S. officials about Pakistan's nuclear program, including assistance it has received other from other countries.


"(Khan) has evidence and has seen documents linking Iran and China to Pakistan's nuclear program as well as funding of this program by nearby Muslim states and countries," Khan's attorney, Michael Wildes, told CNN.

USA Today quoted Khan as saying Pakistan has produced enough plutonium to make a weapon but that the country's nuclear program "still needs some assistance from other countries."

Pakistan used uranium, rather than the more potent plutonium, in its recent nuclear tests.

Defector in danger?

Wildes believes his client's information, including location, yield and range of Pakistani's missiles, would be of great interest to American intelligence sources.

The FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee reportedly are looking into the matter.

As Khan seeks asylum, he is in danger as are family members who remained in Pakistan, Wildes said.

"This man has been very brave and has taken a bold step to shed some light on a region that is very volatile and is using weapons that are very dangerous," the attorney told CNN. "He's put himself at personal risk and I hope that the government will acknowledge this and expeditiously ajudicate his case."

Khan left Pakistan in May before a series of nuclear tests conducted that month by both India and Pakistan in developments widely viewed as spurring a nuclear arms race in South Asia.

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