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Bhutto will give UN access to AQ Khan

world Updated: Sep 26, 2007 22:39 IST

Former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto has said that if returned to power, she would allow UN inspectors but not Western powers to question the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's military regime has refused to grant any access to US officials eager to question nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan since he admitted to passing atomic secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea in a televised confession in February 2004.

Khan was pardoned by Musharraf later that month and has lived under virtual house arrest in Islamabad and makes no public appearances.

"He has fallen on his sword and taken the blame," Bhutto said on a visit to Washington as she prepared to head back to Pakistan next month from self-imposed exile in London and Dubai.

"Many Pakistanis are cynical about whether AQ Khan could have done this without any official sanction," she told the Middle East Institute, promising to hold parliamentary hearings on the question if re-elected prime minister. "While we do not agree at this stage to have any Western access to AQ Khan, we do believe that IAEA... Would have the right to question AQ Khan," she said, referring to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency.

That could help satisfy the world community "that the illegal structure has been broken," said Bhutto, who intends to return home on October 18 with Musharraf battling for his political survival.