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AQ Khan supplied N-tech to Syria

This is the first time the Bush admn has publicly linked Khan network's supply chain to Syria, writes S Rajagopalan.

india Updated: May 14, 2006 09:38 IST

In a new dimension to AQ Khan's nuclear 'Wal-mart' saga, a US intelligence report to Congress talks of the network's suspected transfer of nuclear weapons technology to Syria as well.

This is the first time the Bush administration has publicly linked the Khan network's supply chain to Syria, the Washington Times reported on Saturday. So far, the covert network had been found complicit in nuclear supplies to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

In their report to Congress, the US intelligence agencies have said that Pakistani investigators have confirmed reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency that the Khan network "offered nuclear technology and hardware to Syria".

"We are concerned that expertise or technology could have been transferred. We continue to monitor Syrian nuclear intentions with concern," says the report that covers period of 2004. Syria is one of the countries branded by the US as "state sponsors of terrorism".

Khan, the architect of Pakistan's nuclear programme currently in "protective custody", had earlier confessed to interrogators about supplying gas centrifuge items to Iran, Libya and North Korea. He, however, had denied selling any material to Syria, despite reports that he had visited Syria several times.

Syria, a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been conducting nuclear research in three facilities located at Dayr, Al Hajar and Dubaya, said the US intelligence report. It also speaks of North Korean assistance for Syria's missile programme, notably in building its own liquid-fuelled Scud missiles.

"We are concerned that expertise of technology could have been transfered. We continue to monitor Syrian nuclear intentions with concern," said the intelligence report.

Syria continued to seek assistance in solid propellant rocket motors, the report said, while adding that North Korea had made available equipment and assistance to Damascus' missile programme.

Describing China as a "key supplier" of nuclear, missile and weapons of mass destruction goods to nations of concern, the report also said that Chinese companies "continued to work" with Pakistan and Iran on ballistic missile related projects.

Firms in China provided, among other things, dual use missile related items to Libya and North Korea, it added.

It pointed out that Chinese language documents found in Libya revealed that the Khan network had supplied the country with nuclear warhead design and that Beijing has not commented on how this made its way from Pakistan to Libya.