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West did not oppose Pak n-programme due to Afghan war: AQ Khan

world Updated: Sep 01, 2010 11:10 IST
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Western countries did not "actively oppose" Pakistan developing its nuclear weapon in late 1980s as they were "too scared" and pre-occupied with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and its future consequences, disgraced atomic scientist AQ Khan has said.

Khan, who has been slapped sanctions by the US for running a clandestine nuclear network, also said the West
ignored Pakistan's nuclear program as it needed the country's support to push the then Soviet Russia out of Afghanistan.

"The Afghan War was a blessing for our nuclear program," Khan said in an interview to the NewsWeek's
inaugural Pakistani edition.

"It was not that the Western countries actively supported it but that they were too scared and (pre) occupied
with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and its future consequences to actively oppose it," he said.

Khan said neither the Americans nor the British had a clue about the status of Pakistan's nuclear programme until

"After the Afghan War, they (US and UK) slapped sanctions on us to extract concessions from [fomer Pakistani
president] Benazir Bhutto's government, but [former president] Ghulam Ishaq Khan and [former Army chief] Gen Aslam Beg frustrated their nefarious designs," Khan said.

The disgraced atomic scientist alleged CIA chief Leon Panetta was a "liar", when asked about Panetta's statement
that Pakistan is now the headquarters of Al-Qaeda.

"The CIA chief—like his bosses and those before him is a liar. There is no headquarters of Al Qaeda in
Pakistan. Yes, Pakistan has become very unsafe due to foreign troops in Afghanistan. Our cohesion has been shattered," he said.

He also said the "spineless political leaders" have turned Pakistan -- a nuclear and missile power with 175
million people —- into a "beggar state", a third-rate country.

"If there had been any pride left in our leaders, they would have responded appropriately and nobody would have dared
to say such things in the first place," he said.

Khan said Pakistan's nuclear weapon is a deterrent against India.

"Our nuclear program has ensured our survival, our security, and our sovereignty...I am proud to have contributed
to it together with my patriotic and able colleagues," he said, adding that Pakistan is not a threat to any country.