US to raise A Q Khan’s release issue with Pakistan

February 10th, 2009 - 10:12 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) Expressing disappointment at the release of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan accused of selling nuclear secrets in the black market, the US says its special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke would raise the issue with Islamabad.

But the release of Khan, considered the father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, does not change Holbrooke’s mission, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Monday as the envoy arrived in Islamabad on the first leg of his trip that would also take him to Afghanistan and India.

“He wants to hear from the various sectors of society in these three countries,” he said noting Holbrooke’s “mission is to try to coordination amongst a number of US Government entities with regard to our overall political/economic/military footprint in” Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“With regard to A.Q. Khan, we remain very disappointed at the court’s decision in Pakistan. We believe he remains a potential proliferation risk,” he said. “We will continue to have discussions with the Pakistani Government about A.Q. Khan, and we’re going to continue to follow this issue very closely.”

“I would suspect that the issue would come up in his (Holbrooke’s) conversations with the Pakistanis,” he said declining to compare it with releasing Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. “But let me just say A.Q. Khan’s track record has been one of great concern to us and a number of other countries around the world.”

“And we’re going to do what we can to try to make sure that the types of activities that have been undertaken in the past don’t continue, and we … are in a dialogue with the Pakistani Government about A.Q. Khan and we remain concerned about the potential that he has for further proliferation.”

Wood said he did not think that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a conversation with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi about Khan, but there were some conversations between him and US officials in Munich. He also could not say if Qureshi had talked with Vice President Joe Biden about the issue.

Khan remains a potential proliferation risk, and that’s not just to the United States, but to other countries around the world, he said. “So I would suspect that you’ll see other countries also expressing their concern about the court decision.”

Asked if Pakistan is trying to blackmail or trying to send some kind of message to Washington by releasing Khan, Wood said: “First of all, I can’t speak for the Pakistani Government. I don’t think the Government of Pakistan is trying to blackmail us.”

“They know our concern about A.Q. Khan, and as I’ve said over and over again, we will continue to make that case, and we want to do what we can to make sure that that network can in no way re-establish itself and continue the activities that it was once undertaking.”

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