Pakistan scientists to face nuclear charges

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The Independent Online

Pakistan made its clearest public statement yet yesterday that employees of its secretive nuclear weapons laboratory had sold technology to Iran and Libya and would face legal action.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the Information Minister, said: "One or two people acted in an irresponsible manner for personal profit. Money is involved in the matter. I am not naming any scientist."

Mr Ahmed, the senior government spokesman, made the comments amid fevered speculation that leading figures involved in the three-decade-long programme that made Pakistan the Islamic world's first nuclear power will face prosecution.

He said that seven people were still detained - three scientists and four security officials - and that the investigation that began in late November of employees at the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), a facility where uranium is enriched for nuclear weapons, would be complete within days.

Media reports have identified the key suspects as Mohammed Farooq, the former KRL director general - held for nearly two months - and Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of the laboratory, who has long been regarded as a national hero.

Mr Khan has not been detained, but an acquaintance said that he was confined to Islamabad and had been questioned many times. Mr Ahmed said yesterday that Mr Khan was not under any restrictions.