Pakistani nuclear scientist hopes new government will free him

(dpa) - Pakistan's disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan termed his detention as "illegal" and said he hoped the new government will soon free him, according to an interview published Wednesday.

The 72-year-old scientist was placed under house arrest in 2004 after he confessed to supplying atomic technology, including centrifuges and other restricted material, to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

But Khan remains revered by Pakistanis for turning the country into the first Islamic nuclear power. President Pervez Musharraf has been under constant public pressure to release the atomic scientist since he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006.

"My health is deteriorating - the cardinal cause of my illness is this solitary confinement," he told the Urdu-language newspaper Nawai Waqt in an interview on Tuesday, his 72nd birthday, which was published Wednesday.

"My lower limbs are losing vitality and I am suffering from extreme lethargy," he added.

Musharraf's political backers were thrashed in the February 18 general election and his rivals formed a coalition government last week. This gave Khan some hope as members of the new government have recently signaled that they might review his detention.

But Khan's freedom might irk the United States administration of President George W Bush, which first exposed Khan's involvement in nuclear proliferation in 2003 and informed Musharraf.

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