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Pakistan probes Iran nuclear link

Abdul Qadeer Khan is not under detention, says Pakistan.
Abdul Qadeer Khan is not under detention, says Pakistan.

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Abdul Qadeer Khan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has admitted that some of the country's top nuclear scientists possibly passed information to Iran.

Pakistan has been questioning three scientists for the past five to six weeks in connection with the possible transfer of nuclear technology and information to Iran and other countries.

In the wake of news reports that the country may have been the source of the information, Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said Tuesday that Pakistan had never and would never proliferate nuclear technology.

"Pakistan takes its responsibility as a nuclear weapons state seriously," Khan said. "We are a responsible state and we understand our obligations.

"We had been approached by the IAEA -- the International Atomic Energy Agency. We had been given some information by the government of Iran," Khan said.

"The information that was shared with us pointed to certain individuals."

The Foreign Ministry spokesman asked reporters not to jump to conclusions and said their investigation was continuing. He said appropriate action would be action taken if the law had been broken.

Khan said Monday Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, was questioned in connection with the "debriefing" of three nuclear scientists about the matter.

"He is not under detention and the nature of the questioning is not interrogative," said Khan. "He is too eminent a scientist to undergo a normal debriefing session."

In 1983, a court in the Netherlands convicted Abdul Qadeer Khan of stealing European designs for enriching uranium. His conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Recent news reports have said there is evidence that Iran purchased technology and information from inside Pakistan, and appeared to use it in its own nuclear program.

Other nations -- including North Korea and Libya -- possibly received such information and technology as well, the news reports said.

"The government of Pakistan has not authorized or initiated any transfers of sensitive nuclear technology or information to other countries," Khan said Tuesday. "This is out of the question."

Asked if the U.S. government had concluded Pakistan was the source of nuclear technology in Libya and Iran, White House spokesman Scott McClellan did not give a solid answer.

"That is the past," he said Monday. "I'm not in a position to discuss those matters related to classified information and intelligence matters.... But let me talk to the present. President (Pervez) Musharraf has assured us there are not any transfers of WMD-related technologies or know-how going on in the present time."

Asked whether the United States believes Pakistan is dealing in such weapons now, McClellan said Musharraf has "assured us that that is not happening, that they are not involved in that kind of activity."

The United States considers Pakistan an ally in the war on terrorism.

--CNN Correspondent Ash-har Quraishi contributed to this report.

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