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Musharraf embarrassed over Khan episode

NEW DELHI, MARCH 19. The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, has said he was embarrassed over the involvement of scientist A.Q. Khan in nuclear proliferation, but asserted that neither the Pakistan Government nor the military was involved in it.

``...I think certainly, I am extremely embarrassed that our national hero is involved in proliferation... On the other side when you talk of the military, it does cause concern. But I am extremely positive neither the Government nor the military was involved,'' Gen. Musharraf told CNN in an interview.

Gen. Musharraf said the Pakistan Government had carried investigations into the episode and conducted that it was ``these individuals'' who carried out the proliferation of nuclear technology.

He said Pakistan was well on the road to economic recovery, but listed in the same breath some of the critical issues that were becoming impediments.

Listing ``the four very critical issues'' Islamabad was grappling with, he said the world perception was that whatever was ``happening in Afghanistan and Kashmir are happening from Pakistan.''

There was also the perception that all nuclear proliferation was being done from Pakistan and ``we are an extremist militant society,'' he said. ``We have to deal with all these four issues and we are dealing with them. We are negotiating with India. We are tackling A.Q. Khan... We then have to tackle this issue of extremism. Finish it from here and then we have a bright future.''

Asked whether the two top leaders of the Al-Qaeda — Osama bin Laden and Al Zawahiri — could be hiding in the tribal belt of the country given the people's resistance in those areas to the Government's military operations, Gen. Musharraf was somewhat cagey. ``The resistance that is being offered by the people there, we feel that there may be a high value target. I can't say who, but they are giving fierce battle at the moment; they are not coming out in spite of the fact that we have pounded them militarily.''

When asked specifically whether the two Al-Qaeda leaders were there, he replied: ``I can't say... it will just be a guess, but it is very likely there is a high value target. Who I don't know.'' — UNI

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