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A Q Khan network offered to build N-bomb for Saddam: Book

world Updated: Mar 10, 2010 15:56 IST
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An agent linked to disgraced Pakistani scientist A Q Khan had offered Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1990 to build an atomic bomb for him in three years under a USD 150 million "nuclear package deal," according to a new book.

The "package" deal included not only weapon designs but also details of production plants and foreign experts to supervise the building of a nuclear bomb, David Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, said in his book to be released next week, 'The Washington Post' reported.

Reporting on the book entitled 'Peddling Peril' - How the Secret Nuclear Trade Arms America's Enemies,' the paper said the newly uncovered documents suggest that Khan's offer of nuclear assistance to Saddam was more comprehensive than previously known.

"A 1990 letter attributed to a Khan business associate offered Iraq a chance to leap past technical hurdles to acquire weapons capability," it said.

"Pakistan had to spend a period of 10 years and an amount of 300 million US dollars to get it," begins one of the memos, the daily said reporting from the book.

"Now, with the practical experience and worldwide contacts Pakistan has developed, you could have 'A.B.' in about three years' time and by spending about USD 150 million."

'A.B.' was understood to mean "atomic bomb," Albright wrote, adding that aid from the Pakistani nuclear scientist could have accelerated Iraq's quest for a weapon if the Iraqi leader had not run out of time.

One memo cited in the book promised to provide "all the vital components and materials" needed to make fissile material and added that "two to three Pakistani scientists could be persuaded to resign and join the new assignment" in Iraq, the daily said.

Copies of the original Arabic documents -- several with handwritten comments in the margins -- were shown to The Washington Post, the report said.

In his book, Albright argues that Khan could have been stopped if governments and private businesses had been more willing to share intelligence, it said.

He cites results of "a secret Dutch investigation into Khan's activities in that country in the 1970s, a probe that confirmed Khan's theft of sensitive nuclear blueprints, yet failed to result in a broader inquiry of a serious security breach," the Post reported.

In his book, Albright, founder-president of Washington- based Institute for Science and International Security, offers an uneven expose on the "illicit trade in nuclear technology" and the threats it poses to American security.

He details how "convergence of easy money and weak (export) controls on the sale of high-tech equipment created a perfect storm" that was easily exploited by North Korea and A Q Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear programme, who established a "transnational network of smugglers" to sell nuclear weapon capabilities to Iran, Libya, and Pyongyang.

The book also examines the efforts of al-Qaeda to obtain nuclear weapons and the cat-and-mouse game between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency over that country's nuclear ambitions.