AQ Khan, the mastermind of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, has denied any involvement in similar programmes in North Korea and Iran, insisting that the two states have acquired any knowledge in the field from Western sources.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mr Khan, who has been described as a “serious proliferation risk” by the United States after being accused of passing on his knowledge to countries – like North Korea – which Washington regards as a rogue state, said: “I have nothing to do with it and Pakistan has nothing to do with it. All the western countries you see the nuclear technology Pakistan did not develop. Pakistan also acquired it from the western countries. They [North Korea] are also getting it from the western countries.”
Pyongyang said in 2009 that it had joined the nuclear club, a claim that the US later said was probably true. Mr Khan was widely accused of helping Kim Jong-il’s administration in acquiring the bomb. A leading nuclear physicist, Mr Khan was identified after reports suggested that Pakistan and North Korea had exchanged ideas on nuclear weapons in the early 1990s.
“Pakistan did not have any knowledge about missiles and Pakistan did not give anyone any information about missiles. We are a novice in this field,” he said.
The rare interview with Mr Khan comes on the eve of Pakistan’s general elections, for which Mr Khan, despite not standing himself, has formed a party. As well as denying any link to North Korea’s nuclear weapons, he has also attacked the West over Iran’s nuclear programme. Tehran insists that its atomic work is for peaceful means, but the West, and especially Israel, has said that the country is working towards producing a bomb.
“It’s just propaganda, just propaganda western propaganda for public consumption,” he said. “You know they were making the same propaganda about Iraq. And they couldn’t find a trace of it. Not an iota of truth was in it. And even Collin Powell [the former US Secretary of State] had gone to the United Nations and was showing her pictures of chemical weapons laboratories and then he apologised.”
Talks between Iran and the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany - have produced few results, while Israel has insisted that it will act to prevent Iran enriching sufficient uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. Mr Khan, however, insists that the claims are unfounded.
“If you attack a country on false accusations, you destroy the whole country, millions of people there and then you say oh it was false information. So this is the same thing. Everyone must know, Iran is a signatory to [Non-Proliferation Treaty]. [The] IAEA can send any inspectors anytime there to see anything, any facility. So there is no question of Iran getting anywhere near nuclear weapons production. So this is as simple as the daylight. It’s just the propaganda for public consumption.”