US senators criticise pardon for Pakistan nuclear scientist

Updated on Feb 27, 2004 11:13 AM IST

'We've a guy in Pak that 10 yrs ago, if you'd found him selling that stuff, you'd have hung him,' said one.

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PTI | ByAssociated Press, Washington

Senators have complained to Secretary of State Colin Powell about Pakistan's decision not to punish "the worst proliferator ever", nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

"We have a guy in Pakistan that 10 years ago, if you would have found him selling that stuff, you'd have hung him in the marketplace," said Senator Pete Domenici.

Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf after confessing to leaking nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Calling Khan "the worst proliferator ever", Domenici made his comments as Powell testified before the Senate Budget Committee on his department's 2005 budget request.

The committee chairman, Senator Don Nickles, also asked Powell about Khan.

"I don't see him being punished and I'm concerned," Nickles said. "This one individual, and may be his collaboration of scientists, evidently were spreading nuclear secrets throughout the world. It looks like he's getting off scot-free. And I am interested in your comment on that."

Powell defended Musharraf's decision and said the United States is getting much information from Khan as part of the conditional pardon.

"As you know, senator, he was seen as a national hero in Pakistan," Powell told Nickles. "I think (Musharraf) took a bold step, the right step to uncover it all and not hide from the reality of what AQ Khan had done."

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