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Pakistani nukes safe: AQ Khan

The Taliban and external forces cannot seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons because they are "highly secured" and only a handful know where they are kept, disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan said in remarks published on Sunday.

world Updated: May 29, 2011 15:53 IST

The Taliban and external forces cannot seize Pakistan's nuclear weapons because they are "highly secured" and only a handful know where they are kept, disgraced nuclear scientist AQ Khan said in remarks published on Sunday.

Khan, still a national hero in Pakistan, also told the Dawn newspaper that the safety of the nuclear weapons "has been improved gradually" over the years.

He explained that the nuclear weapons were not stored in one place and that very few people knew about their location.

"You can count these people on fingers who exactly know about the location of (our) nuclear arsenals.

"These weapons are lying in tunnels and safe houses where no one can access them, except very few relevant people," he was quoted as saying.

Khan's views come following mounting fears globally that the escalating Islamist violence in Pakistan could result in the militants one day laying hands on the nuclear arsenal.

Khan also told the daily that Pakistan's nuclear programme was proceeding without any break for the past 10 years.

"Although I have not been associated with the programme for the past 10 years, I know it has been running without any break and the process of uranium enrichment is in progress," he said.

He stressed that though the Pakistanis were not giving "final shape to new nuclear weapons", the material was being made. It could be assembled any time if required, he added.

Khan, who mentored Pakistan's nuclear programme, had in January 2004 confessed to having sold the country's nuclear secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea.

On Feb 5, 2004, President Pervez Musharraf announced he had pardoned Khan, who is widely seen as a national hero in Pakistan.

In 2000, the US accused Pakistan of providing nuclear weapons' technology to North Korea in exchange for ballistic missile technology.

A year later, the Pakistani government announced it had dismissed Khan as the head of Khan Research Laboratories, a move that drew strong criticism from religious forces.