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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

A.Q. Khan & Iran

Following Iran's disclosure of uranium enrichment research and subsequent inspections, the central role of Pakistan in Iran's nuclear programme was unearthed. This was compounded by Iran turning over to the IAEA a complete history of its nuclear program including a listing of middlemen and scientists linked to Pakistan and A.Q. Khan. Khan's proliferation activities helped explain the close resemblance borne by Iran's nuclear centrifuge techonology to that of Pakistan.

Evidence uncovered by inspectors showed that Pakistan and Iran agreed around 1987 to a deal whereby a Pakistani centrifuge design was provided to Iran to resolve the latter's previous unsuccessful attempts to master uranium enrichment technology. The transfer of nuclear technology began in 1989, though Khan was said to have claimed to have discontinued the sale two years later. The IAEA, though, reportedly had evidence that Pakistani assistance continued as late as 1996. At that time, the countries' differing policies in dealing with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan soured their relations, though it had been claimed the Pakistanin assistance continued nonetheless.

According to confessions by A.Q. Khan and aides of his to Pakistani invesitgators reportedly implicated among others, General Mirza Aslam Beg, the commander of Pakistan's Army from 1988-1991, and that any nuclear technology shared with Iran had been approved by him. These charges were denied by him. Pakistani did discover evidence that Beg had been informed by Khan of the transfer to Iran in early 1991 of outdated hardware, though it had been claimed that A.Q. Khan had led him to believe that the material would not allow Iran to produce enriched uranium. Kahn challanged this assertion having said that General Beg had approved the technology transfer.

A.Q. Khan had claimed that equipment and drawings shipped to Iran were supplied as a result of pressure from the late General Imtiaz during his tenure as defense advisor to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto from December 1988 to August 1990. Khan had also admitted to meeting Iranian scientists in Karachi at the request of Dr. Niazi, a close Bhutto aide. In return for the help, Iran transferred millions of dollars to foreign bank accounts, with some money funnelled through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. That bank collapsed in 1991.

Some of the centrifuges examined also appeared to have been used outside Iran to enrich uranium, while components of some centrifuges appeared to have come directly from Pakistan. Though some of the machines Iran had bought did not work properly, Iran reportedly still managed to effect significant improvements on Pakistani equipment designs. Despite the design similarities, Iran had nonetheless denied having received them from Pakistan.

Faced with disclosure, Khan reportedly contacted Iranian officials to not only urge them to destroy some of their facilities, but also to pretend that the Pakistanis who had assisted them had died.

In 2004, the IAEA held discussions with Iranian officials in which it was admitted that the original designs for the centrifuges had been acquired from Pakistan. However, members of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) insisted that no work relating to the P-2 design had occured until 2002, and that the resulting centrifuges (referred to as IR-2) had been fabricated entirely in Iran, but Iranian scientists. Following these disclosures, in early March 2005, Pakistan acknowledged A. Q. Khan had provided centrifuges to Iran, though it denied having had any knowledge of the transactions.

In May 2008, A.Q. Khan publically stated that elements of his confession relating to proliferation to various countries including Iran had been coerced and otherwise fabricated. Khan said he had been pressured by General Pervez Musharraf, in power in Pakistan at the time of the confessions in 2004, to admit to a wide variety of proliferation activities in exchange for being quickly pardoned. The United States and others reminded unconvinced that Khan had not assisted nations like Iran in their nuclear programs.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:41:56 ZULU