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'AQ Khan's network is still active'

world Updated: May 03, 2007 15:10 IST
IANS
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The clandestine network of nuclear material and technology trading set up by Pakistani scientist AQ Khan is still very much in business and actively involved in proliferation, according to a media report in London.
Quoting a new report by the influential think-tank International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), media says only a part of Khan's worldwide organisation had been uncovered and some of the members prosecuted.

The report, titled "Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, AQ Khan and the rise of proliferation networks", adds that Khan's extensive 'contact book' had been sold on allowing lucrative new deals to take place.

Mark Fitzpatrick, one of the authors of the report, is quoted as saying: "In this case decapitating the head does not mean the body is dead. Khan's network was horizontal and in many ways self-supporting. He may have been the dealmaker, but many of his contacts have been able to organise their own deals.

"Just one deal with the Libyans is estimated to have got him around $100 million. But we do not know how much of that he had to share with his network."

Khan was pardoned by Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf after admitting his role in proliferation and publicly declaring that the Pakistani state had played no part in the scheme. The US and other Western governments have not been allowed to question Khan.

Fitzpatrick says: "A number of Pakistani officials encouraged Khan in what he was doing. They have not been prosecuted or punished in any way for this implicit complicity and we do not know what they are doing now.

"But Khan's contact list had been sold on to third parties who are continuing to obtain illicit supplies for their programme."

The report claims that now Iran was one of the main buyers of illicit supplies. "Today, Iran remains the most active customer in the international nuclear black market," said John Chipman, director-general of the IISS.

"Iran has sought dual-use goods from some of the same people and firms previously linked to Khan, but has also turned to new technology brokers.

"At least some Khan's associates appear to have escaped law enforcement attention and could, after a period of lying low, resume their black market business."