I confessed to save Pak, says scientist
Detained Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan said that he took the blame four years ago for passing atomic secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya in order to "save his country".
Khan, who has been under effective house arrest since confessing on television in 2004 to running a proliferation network, added that the country's new government had not yet contacted him about his possible release.
Khan was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf after his confession but has remained under detention.
Musharraf denied any state involvement in Khan's activities but has rejected international requests to quiz the scientist.
"I saved the country for the first time when I made Pakistan a nuclear nation and saved it again when I confessed and took the whole blame on myself," Khan told AFP in a telephone interview from his Islamabad villa late yesterday.
Khan is hailed as a hero by many Pakistanis for transforming the country into the Islamic world's first nuclear power.
Pakistan carried out nuclear tests in 1998 in response to detonations by neighbouring India.
"Even Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain (former prime minister) and Mushahid Hussain (a senator from the party that backs Musharraf) said I saved Pakistan by accepting the whole blame myself," he added.
Musharraf's political allies were routed in elections in February and a new government formed by slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's party and the grouping of former premier Nawaz Sharif has taken power.
Members of the new government have indicated that they may consider freeing Khan as they review Musharraf's policies over the last nine years and seek to roll back his powers.But Khan said he had no contact with the new administration.
Khan was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and was briefly hospitalised last month with complications.