Hindustan Times - Report points to Pak nexus in Iranian nuclear programme
Pakistan has been identified as the source of critical technology for Iran's nuclear programme in new evidence gathered by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
Citing officials familiar with the UN agency's investigation of the Iranian programme, the paper said the evidence "implicates Pakistani companies as suppliers of critical technology and parts".
Iran, without identifying the source, is said to have admitted for the first time that it received substantial foreign help in building a secret nuclear facility south of Tehran that is now beginning to enrich uranium.
The finding on the Pakistani nexus, not long after that country's involvement with the North Korean programme, is being viewed in Washington as presenting another diplomatic challenge to the Bush administration vis-a-vis Islamabad.
Despite media disclosures, the administration has over the past many months refrained from publicly acknowledging or criticising Pakistan's missiles-for-nukes barter deal with North Korea. Analysts have attributed the US stance to its need for continued Pakistani assistance in the drive against the Al-Qaeda.
On the Iranian programme itself, media reports in Washington talked of international inspectors finding traces of highly enriched uranium at the Iranian facility, giving rise to speculation that Tehran may have already produced weapons-grade material.
The IAEA report, however, referred to Iranian denials on this score and said additional work was necessary to reach definitive conclusions. The Iranian explanation for the enriched uranium traces was that the particles had been on the equipment when it was purchased from another country.
"The equipment said to be tainted was from a type of centrifuge acquired by Pakistani scientists in the 1970s and used in Pakistan's domestic nuclear programme," the Post said, quoting two officials familiar with the findings.
Although Islamabad has denied any involvement with the Iranian programme, as with the North Korean one earlier on, experts in Washington remain unconvinced. "The notion that Pakistan wasn't involved is getting less and less tenable," says Henry D Sokoloski, a senior non-proliferation official in the Bush Sr administration.
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security has been quoted in one media report as saying that information being developed in various capitals pointed to Pakistan as the likely source of the centrifuge designs and components for the Iranian programme.