China silent on evidence it played key role in Khan's nuke network

Special to World
Saturday, March 20, 2004

Beijing is refusing to comment on documents found in Libya linking China to Tripoli's covert nuclear program.

Documents found in Libya as part of a disarmament plan revealed that China has supplied information on nuclear weapons design. The documents concerned the nuclear supplier group led by Pakistani chief scientist A.Q. Khan.

According to U.S. intelligence, China supplied Pakistan with design information for Islamabad's nuclear weapons. U.S. intelligence agencies have obtained exact details of the Chinese design, which is based on stolen U.S. nuclear weapons secrets.

A Chinese government spokesman declined to answer questions last week when asked about the Chinese-language documents found in Libya. "I don't have the specifics about the document you mentioned," the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, China and Pakistan have concluded an agreement for Beijing to sell Pakistan a second nuclear power plant at Chasma.

The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency determined that a UAE company served as the hub for the traffic of nuclear weapons components. Officials said the company coordinated with a range of nuclear suppliers for orders from such countries as Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The Bush administration identified the UAE firm as SMB Computers, a key element in the nuclear weapons black market operated by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. The company was found to have served as a clearinghouse for nuclear components ordered by Iran, Libya and North Korea.

The public confession on Feb. 4 by Khan the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program in which he admitted to facilitating the network, has shocked the world and prompted new warnings that terrorists could gain access to weapons of mass destruction.

"The supply network will grow, making it easier to acquire nuclear weapon expertise and materials," IAEA director-general Mohammed El Baradei wrote in the New York Times on Feb. 12. "Eventually, inevitably, terrorists will gain access to such materials and technology, if not actual weapons."

"Khan and his associates," a White House fact sheet said, "used a factory in Malaysia to manufacture key parts for centrifuges, and purchased other necessary parts through network operatives based in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Libya, Iran, and North Korea were customers of the Khan network, and several other countries expressed an interest in Khan's services."

The company was said to have processed orders for such goods as uranium hexafluoride used for the centrifuge process that can produce enriched uranium for nuclear bombs as well as components and complete centrifuges.

SMB was operated by a deputy of Khan. Officials said the deputy, identified as Bukhari Sayed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan native, employed his Dubai company as the front for the nuclear network that sought to provide up to 1,000 centrifuges to Libya.

The nuclear network, which was said to have been penetrated by the CIA, contained companies and people from both Western and Third World countries, officials said. They included Belgium, China, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the UAE and the United Arab Emirates.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts

Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives