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`Pakistan had secret pact with Iran'

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON, JAN. 24. Senior Pakistan officials have told The Washington Post that investigators have concluded that at least two top nuclear scientists — including the father of the country's nuclear bomb Abdul Qadeer Khan — provided unauthorised technical assistance to Iran in the late 1980s.

In a front page article, The Post has said that the unnamed officials have spoken of the scientists allegedly providing the help under a secret agreement between Islamabad and Teheran and one that was supposed to be limited to the sharing of peaceful nuclear technology.

The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has apparently acknowledged on Friday that Pakistani scientists had indeed sold nuclear secrets ``for personal financial gain'' but has reiterated that there has been no official involvement. ``There is no such evidence that any government personality or military personality was involved in this at all,'' he told reporters in Davos, Switzerland.

Officials have identified the second scientist as Mohammad Farooq and investigators have recommended that he be charged under the Official Secrets Act. Gen. Musharraf is expected to make a final decision upon his return from Davos this weekend.

The investigation in Pakistan has been condemned locally as evidence of the Musharraf Government allowing Washington to meddle in the country's internal affairs.

The official investigations came after the International Atomic Energy Agency came up with information suggesting that Pakistani scientists may have helped Iran develop centrifuges to make enriched uranium. There have been other allegations against Pakistan — that it has helped the nuclear weapons programmes of North Korea and Libya.

maintains that American officials have expressed scepticism about the vigour of the investigations and the denials of high-level complicity. At the same time an unnamed Bush administration official has said ``it is not lost on us that it's a fragile situation there. We are sensitive to the pressure that Gen. Musharraf is under from the Islamic extremists.'' The official has remarked that Islamabad could not continue to ignore international pressure even though some of the accusations date much before Gen. Musharraf took over in 1999.

``They couldn't stick their heads in the sand any longer and say `It wasn't on our watch,'' the official has been quoted.

The newspaper report takes note of the fact that in the ongoing investigations in Pakistan, the military has largely escaped close scrutiny with officials acknowledging that investigators were yet to interview, for instance, the retired Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg who had openly advocated a military alliance with Iran during his tenure as Chief of Army Staff between 1988 and 1991.

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