As international outcry grows,Pak defends A Q Khan’s release

As international apprehensions grew over the release of rouge atomic scientist A Q Khan,Pakistan on Saturday defended setting him free...

Written by Press Trust Of India | Islamabad | Published: February 8, 2009 3:42 am

As international apprehensions grew over the release of rouge atomic scientist A Q Khan,Pakistan on Saturday defended setting him free,saying his clandestine nuclear proliferation network had been “dismantled”.

“A Q Khan is history,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said,claiming that authorities had broken his nuclear smuggling network and extracted all the information from him. “He has no say or access to any of the sensitive areas of Pakistan,” he said in remarks broadcast by Dawn television.

Khan,who once confessed to passing nuclear know how to Iran,Libya and North Korea was set free from five years of house arrest after a court declared him a “free citizen” following a secret agreement with the Government. The move has alarmed New Delhi,Washington,London,Paris and other major powers.

The White House said President Barack Obama wants assurances from Islamabad that Khan is no longer involved in the activities that led to his arrest,while State Department said Khan remained a “serious proliferation risk”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said: “I am very much concerned.”

The US believes that Khan continues to be a significant “proliferation risk” and it would be “unfortunate” if he were to be released from house arrest,State Department spokesperson,Gordon Duguid said.

Qureshi also said Pakistan had “put in place a foolproof command and control authority” and “our nuclear assets are safe”.

Khan was detained in December 2003 after he admitted on state-run television that he operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology around the world. However,unanswered questions remained about with whom Khan allegedly shared the nuclear know how and whether Pakistani authorities new about it and profited from it.

In Lahore,Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters that Khan’s proliferation ring had been dismantled. Khan’s release was the outcome of a court order and nobody could interfere in the matter,he said.

“The Government of Pakistan would like to reiterate that it has dismantled the nuclear black market network and no individual associated with it enjoys any official status nor has access to any strategic facility,” a statement issued by Pakistan’s Foreign Office said.

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