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Pak must give access to A Q Khan: US lawmakers

world Updated: Mar 14, 2009 11:19 IST

US lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation aiming to cut off military aid to Pakistan unless US officials are able to question alleged nuclear proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Khan, released from house arrest in early February, "is again a loose nuke scientist with proven ability to sell the worst weapons to the worst people," said Democratic Representative Jane Harman, a lead author of the bill.

The legislation would also tie continued US military aid -- equipment, supplies, and training -- to getting satisfactory assurances from Islamabad that it is monitoring Khan's movements and activities.

"Hopefully, appropriate Pakistani officials worry as we do that their civilians could become nuclear targets -- as could NATO soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan or civilians in any number of Western countries," said Harman.

The measure would tie aid to White House certification that Pakistan is making Khan available to the US government for questioning and is giving "adequate assurances" that it will watch him "to prevent his participation in any efforts to disseminate nuclear technology or know-how."

It would also, however, give President Barack Obama the power to waive the restriction if he certifies that it is in the US national interest to do so.

Khan, 72, was freed by a Pakistani court February 6.

He had been under a virtual house arrest in Islamabad since February 2004, when he publicly confessed to sending nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks.

Military ruler and then president Pervez Musharraf pardoned Khan in 2004, but he was kept at his residence, guarded by troops and intelligence agents.

Days after the court ordered Khan, dubbed the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, freed from house arrest, a US State Department official said Islamabad had promised steps to keep him from becoming a renewed proliferation threat.

But the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said Washington was skeptical and wanted more "solid" assurances that Pakistan was restricting his movements and contacts.

"I understand that he has to notify (his) government 48 hours in advance if he wants to travel outside of Islamabad. That's one of the things they've communicated to us," according to the official.

Khan's release came after the United States, one of Pakistan's key allies, on January 12 unveiled sanctions against Khan, 12 associates and three firms linked to his nuclear proliferation network.

The US sanctions forbid them from having business dealings with the US government or private US firms in what the State Department said was a renewed bid to make sure the network has been shut down entirely.

Democratic Representatives Ellen Tauscher and Gerry Connolly and Republican Representative Ed Royce joined Harman in introducing the measure.