Nuke ties with Libya threatens Pakistan's relations with U.S.

Thursday, January 8, 2004< /FONT>

The Bush administration expects to review U.S. relations with Pakistan amid evidence that it has provided critical missile and nuclear technology to Libya.

U.S. officials and congressional sources said such a review will take place in late 2004 or 2005 and will examine the credibility of the regime of President Pervez Musharraf and its military ties with such states as Egypt, Iran, Libya and North Korea. They said Pakistan and the United States have grown apart on a range of strategic issues, including the future of Afghanistan, weapons of mass destruction technology and the war against Al Qaida.

The son of Libyan ruler Moammar Khaddafy, Seif Al Islam, has identified Pakistan as the leading supplier to Libya's nuclear program. Al Islam said Libya spent $40 million on its nuclear program, with much of that money paid to Islamabad, Middle East Newsline reported.

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"Nothing will happen in the immediate future," an official said. "But there's no denying that we are heading for a collision course and the best we can hope for is to delay this for as long as possible."

The Bush administration has not been under pressure from Congress to respond to evidence that Pakistan provided technology for Libya's uranium enrichment and weaponization program. Congressional sources said the House and Senate do not want to derail a reconciliation attempt by rival nuclear nations India and Pakistan.

But officials and congressional sources said joint British and U.S. inspections of Libyan nuclear and missile facilities yielded evidence of significant Pakistani help to produce nuclear weapons components and warheads. They said Pakistani scientists transferred expertise on how to produce and install nuclear and WMD warheads on medium-range and intermediate-range missiles acquired or developed by Libya.

"This is a story still unfolding," White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who did not confirm the assertion, said on Tuesday.

The Libyan pronouncements have been backed by teams from Britain, the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Officials said IAEA inspectors identified Pakistani equipment and centrifuge plans in Libyan nuclear facilities during their visit in late December.

"President Musharraf has announced that he will be looking into it himself very thoroughly," Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "And to the extent that we can help him with information, we will."

Officials said U.S. intelligence has uncovered a network of technology assistance to Libya that involved Iranian, North Korean and Pakistani equipment. The network contained thousands of pieces of equipment for the processing of enriched uranium that appeared to link Libya's nuclear program with that of Iran. They said Pakistan and North Korea have cooperated to help both Iran and Libya accelerate their missile and WMD programs.

Hussein Haqqani, a visiting scholar at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Pakistan's nuclear weapons have become a "direct and urgent U.S. concern" despite the administration's support for Musharraf. The researcher said the United States must act in accordance to worst-case scenarios in which Pakistani nuclear technology would be transferred to U.S. adversaries, including Al Qaida.

"It is relatively easier for the United States to deal with rogue states like Libya, Syria or Iran, which can be subjected to sanctions or threatened with military action," Haqqani wrote in an analysis for Carnegie. "Pakistan under Gen. Musharraf has become more like Saudi Arabia: an ally too close to Washington for public condemnation, but one engaged in actions that intentionally or inadvertently help America's enemies."

The British-U.S. and IAEA inspections pointed to a 30-year nuclear relationship between Libya and Pakistan. Congressional sources and U.S. officials said Iran, Libya and Pakistan have cooperated to develop secret nuclear weapons facilities since the mid-1980s. They said Libya has helped financed the programs in Pakistan, which then relayed equipment and technology to Iran and Tripoli.

According to the U.S. account, in 1973 Libya agreed to help finance Pakistan's nascent nuclear program. In return, Pakistan pledged to help Libya in the production of nuclear fuel. In the late 1970s, Libya supplied Pakistan with uranium ore.

Congressional sources said Pakistan has used the United Arab Emirates port of Dubai to smuggle nuclear materials to Iran, Iraq and Libya. They said the extent of Pakistani involvement in Iran's and Libya's nuclear programs has significantly increased since 2001.

So far, President George Bush has followed the policy of his predecessors in refusing to acknowledge Pakistan's nuclear proliferation.

Instead, Bush has expressed support for Musharraf and suggested that he has been unable to control rogue elements of his regime.

"He's been a stand-up guy when it comes to dealing with the terrorists," Bush said. "We are making progress against Al Qaida because of his cooperation."

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