Khan retracts nuclear confession

(aljazeera) - A Pakistani nuclear scientist who admitted selling atomic secrets to North Korea, Libya and Iran has said that he made his confession under duress.

Abdul Qadeer Khan said that his televised admission in 2004 was forced upon him by the government of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president.

"It was not of my own free will. It was handed into my hand," the 72-year-old, under house arrest in Islamabad ,told the UK's Guardian newspaper.

In addition, he said that he never swore to co-operate with investigators from the UN's nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

"Why should I talk to them?" he said "I am under no obligation. We are not a signatory to the NPT [nuclear non-proliferation treaty]. I have not violated international laws."

National hero

Khan is still a national hero to some in Pakistan for giving the country the nuclear bomb, in what they see as a safety net against other nuclear-armed states, including neighbouring India.

Musharraf pardoned him the day after his admission, but the government has since refused to allow international investigators to see him.

Khan was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and was taken to hospital with a related infection in February.

There are also signs that the scientist's situation could change as Musharraf's grip on power has been loosened by general election defeat, with the new coalition government seemingly set on undoing his policies.

Khan claimed that nuclear technology was freely available in the West to Iran or North Korea.

"They were supplying to us, they were supplying to them... [to] anyone who could pay," he said.

Freedom first

Khan said he would give his account of the scandal once he was freed.

"First I come out," he said, adding that he expected the new coalition to take up the matter of his release once it had dealt with numerous pressing issues left behind by the previous pro-Musharraf government.

"At this time, the new government is in crisis. They were given an almost dead patient and they are facing lot of problems to make it healthy, so I don't want to make any problems for them," Khan said.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Khan said: "The people have no food, no electricity, nothing... The country has been thrown to the dogs."

The coalition government, formed after the defeat of Musharraf's allies in an election in February, has relaxed some restrictions on Khan, though he has remained under detention at his home.

Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister who Musharraf overthrew in a 1999 coup and whose party is now a major coalition partner, has said Khan should be freed.

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