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'Obama must act fast against N-trade'

The new US administration of President Barack Obama must step up action to stop clandestine nuclear trade involving Pakistan and take further action against AQ Khan network of nuclear proliferators.

world Updated: Jan 13, 2009 13:29 IST

The new US administration of President Barack Obama must step up action to stop clandestine nuclear trade involving Pakistan and take further action against AQ Khan network of nuclear proliferators, an influential American Senator has demanded.

In comments, hours after the Bush administration slapped sanctions on the AQ Khan network, Senator Howard L Berman, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: "These sanctions, though belated, are welcome.

"But this is not enough," he argued. The senator also wanted action against Iran and North Korea.

Berman spoke as the US State Department slapped sanctions against the disgraced Pakistani atomic scientist Abdul Qadir Khan, now under house arrest, his 13 associates and three firms linked to his nuclear proliferation network.

Those involved in the AQ Khan nuclear black market are party to the worst proliferation of nuclear equipment and technology in history, he said.

"But the sanctions do not put an end to the matter; equipment and technology from this network may still be circulating, and new suppliers could well spring up to take Khan's place," Berman argued.

Berman said President Obama, who inherits a complex situation, must redouble US efforts against international black markets in weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

"Congress should be ready to provide new funds and the legal authorities that he may need to end the activities of these merchants of mass destruction," Berman said.

"Dr AQ Khan led an extensive international network for the proliferation of nuclear equipment and know-how that provided "one stop shopping" for countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons," the State Department earlier said.

The sanctions comes, it said, following several years of governmental review of activities pertaining to the activities of the AQ Khan network, which is believed to have sold nuclear technologies to several countries of the world including Iran and Libya.

Several countries around the world including Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, the UAE, Britain, Germany, Switzerland and Malaysia helped the US in its investigations.

"We believe these sanctions will help prevent future proliferation-related activities by these private entities, provide a warning to other would-be proliferators, and demonstrate our ongoing commitment to using all available tools to address proliferation-related activities," it said.

Khan might not be any longer active, the State Department cautioned countries around the world to remain vigilant to ensure that his network, associates or others seeking to pursue similar proliferation activities, will not become a future source for sensitive nuclear information or equipment.

Network's actions have irrevocably changed the proliferation landscape and have had lasting implications for international security, it said.