Khan and the IAEA

To follow up to the earlier posting today about Benazir Bhutto’s remarks yesterday, in which she said allow IAEA inspectors to question Abdul Qadeer Khan, I think it appropriate to cite some of what Mark Hibbs previously wrote, in this November 23 2007 Nucleonics Week article:

The IAEA Department of Safeguards is not finished with its investigation of clandestine assistance that Abdul Qadeer Khan provided to nuclear programs in Iran and elsewhere, according to diplomatic sources close to the IAEA last week.

Beginning in 2003, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei asked the government of Pakistan to aid the IAEA in probing the link between Khan, KRL, and centrifuge enrichment programs in Iran, Libya, and possibly elsewhere (NuclearFuel, 8 August ‘03, 1).Since 2003, Pakistan has answered specific questions submitted by the IAEA but it has refused to allow representatives from either the IAEA or the US or UK governments, which for several years had spearheaded an intelligence investigation of the Khan network, to interview Khan. Senior Pakistani officials told Platts last week that there were two principal reasons why Pakistan denied requests from the IAEA to interview Khan. They said that, because of Khan’s high visibility and popularity in Pakistan, and his status as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, the government led by General Pervez Musharraf would be taking a high political risk in allowing the IAEA or foreign governments to debrief Khan. In addition, they said, Khan has deep knowledge of Pakistan’s nuclear defense secrets. For security reasons therefore, they said, Pakistan could not afford to expose Khan to an interrogation carried out by IAEA or foreign government personnel.

During the course of interactions between Pakistan and the IAEA, sources said, IAEA officials were also informed that Pakistan was not willing to provide the IAEA access to its investigative files on Khan and his network because they contained information on critical organizations that were still involved in nuclear and defense-related foreign procurement for Pakistan.

According to senior diplomatic sources, Pakistan has fairly recently reiterated to the IAEA that it will not now or at any future time allow the agency to interview Khan. For that reason, Pakistan does not expect that the IAEA will in the future renew its previous requests to meet with Khan, as the agency’s investigation continues to unfold.

Note the two below paragraphs in particular:

Pakistan will continue to answer specific questions about the role of Khan and others in the nuclear procurement network and about its assistance to foreign nuclear programs, these sources said. According to the sources, the IAEA will require such assistance before the Department of Safeguards can complete its investigation of Iran’s centrifuge enrichment program.

Sources close to the IAEA said last week it is important for Pakistan to cooperate with the IAEA investigation, regardless of Pakistani assertions that the Khan affair is history. If KRL in 1985 was trying to import thousands of parts for a centrifuge that Pakistan was giving up, but which Iran says it decided to pursue only sometime after 1987, one Western government official said, then the IAEA needs to know why.

In light of the continuing soap opera that is Western angst about Iran’s nuclear program, it appears that Dr Khan is key to its eventual resolution. Remember that in his August 30 report to the IAEA Board of Governors the Director General, Dr Mohamed El Baradei, wrote, regarding Iran’s centrifuges:

The Agency will provide all remaining questions on this issue by 31 August 2007. Iran and the Agency will have discussions in Iran on 24-25 September 2007 to clarify the questions provided. This will be followed up by a further meeting in mid-October 2007 to further clarify the written answers provided. The Agency’s target date for the closure of this issue is November 2007.


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