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'A Q Khan may have exported centrifuges to N Korea'
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September 13, 2005 15:06 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] believes that disgraced nuclear scientist A Q Khan's proliferation ring exported 'probably a dozen' centrifuges to North Korea to produce nuclear weapons fuel. He, however, is not sure if Pyongyang was also given a Chinese-origin design by Khan to build a nuclear bomb.

In an interview to The New York Times, Musharraf also talked about Pakistan's tentative diplomatic openings towards Israel and its efforts to track down al Qaeda leaders.

Musharraf is here to attend the UN General Assembly, besides holding meetings with a host of world leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images].

To another question on whether the scientist gave the same bomb design to North Korea and Iran that investigators found in Libya when they dismantled its uranium programme, the Pakistani leader said, "I don't know whether he passed these bomb designs to others - there is no such evidence."

The Pakistani leader's comments about the results of Khan's interrogation, who was subsequently pardoned by him and is currently under house arrest in Islamabad, are significant because they tend to confirm the accusations American intelligence officials made against North Korea in 2002.

About al-Qaeda, Musharraf said that it was possible that its leader ,Osama bin Laden, was still moving between remote parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. "I will not negate entirely, with confidence, that he is not there," he said. "But I will never accept anybody who says with confidence that he is there."

Rejecting arguments that Pakistan was half-hearted in its efforts to root out al-Qaeda and remnants of Taliban, he said bin Laden's power is reduced no matter where he is. "We have almost eliminated them from our cities. We have caught about 700 of them and we have broken their back in the mountains," he said.

He said that the al-Qaeda chief was switching sides on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border 'wherever he sees danger'. About Pakistan's recent engagements with Israel, he said "this by no means is a recognition" of the Jewish state.

Pakistan's opening to Israel could flourish 'in case there is forward movement' on negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Musharraf, who is to addresss a Jewish group for the first time during his stay in New York, said, "What is the harm if I interacted with the Jewish Congress, knowing their influence here?"

Complete coverage: Prime Minister at the UN

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