Secret N-network of Iran, Pak revealed

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(Last Updated On: January 6, 2016)
LONDON: Tehran, Islamabad and Damascus are secretly engaged in a well-networked and thriving nuclear trade in western Europe with the express purpose of developing an Iranian nuclear bomb and sundry Pakistani and Syrian rocket and nuclear weapons programmes, according to the latest leaked Western intelligence report on nuclear proliferation activities by so-called rogue states.The 55-page intelligence assessment, said to draw upon data gathered by the British, French, German and Belgian agencies, warns that Iran, Pakistan and Syria have become adept at playing the nuclear market through hundreds of front companies, middlemen, bureaucrats and students based in western European engineering firms, germ laboratories, scientific think-tanks and university campuses.

The vast illicit network involves the careful running of traders, phoney companies, state institutions and diplomatic missions to procure stock components, spare parts and crucial surplus replacements to develop chemical, biological, nuclear and conventional weapons, the report said.

The intelligence assessment has excited the attentions of the global agencies charged with overseeing nuclear proliferation, including the IAEA, as well as European boffins and disarmament campaigners.

On the phone from its Vienna headquarters, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spokesman responded to the leaked intelligence assessment by telling TOI, “we have units that gather information either from the states themselves or open sources information”.

Security experts said that in the hubbub over Iran’s alleged attempts, according to the leaked intelligence report, to covertly produce an atomic bomb, as well as ballistic missiles capable of reaching Europe, there was a very real danger of missing the real story.

“The real story”, said the expert, “is that the so-called network (as the IAEA constantly describes the global nuclear black market set up by the father of the Pakistani bomb, Dr AQ Khan) still exists”.

Sources said that despite IAEA director-general Dr Mohammed el-Baradei’s determined all-clear for Pakistan as recently as November 2005, when he insisted the watchdog was “getting good cooperation from Pakistan… Pakistan for the last year has been cooperating with us in resolving many of the Iranian pieces of the puzzle,” it was painfully apparent that Islamabad’s illicit nuclear trade remained alive and well.

The sources said it was noteworthy that Pakistan remained a lead member of the nuclear zone made up of so-called rogue states conducting an illicit trade in weapons parts.

Sources said it remained unclear if the “network”, that IAEA euphemism for Khan’s global nuclear black market, had ever really been wound up.

The leaked report says that Pakistan had continued to buy far more components and materials than were needed as spare parts for its nuclear programme.

Though several of Khan’s collaborators had been arrested in Germany, Switzerland and South Africa, the unofficial nuclear black trade continues to flourish.

European commentators said the leaked intelligence could not have come at a worse time for Teheran, which is due to have new talks about its nuclear activities with the EU troika.

SOURCE:THE TIMES OF INDIA

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