ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - The nuclear black market that let Iran, Libya and North Korea acquire weapons technology from Pakistan under the noses of international monitors raises suspicions that terror groups also acquired bomb components or plans, experts told The Associated Press.
Al-Qaida apparently has shown interest in acquiring nuclear technology. Two Pakistani nuclear scientists were detained in late 2001 after meeting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan on suspicion of giving away secrets, but they were later released without being charged. The military, which controlled the weapons program, also is known to have elements who sympathize with the Taliban and bin Laden.
Pakistan has for years denied spreading nuclear technology and claimed its arsenal was safe from extremists. But strong international pressure after Iranian revelations to the U.N. nuclear watchdog forced Islamabad to begin an investigation of its weapons program in November. It admitted last month for the first time that scientists had leaked technology.
Officials say Abdul Qadeer Khan - the father of Pakistan's nuclear program - has confessed to selling equipment related to centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Libya also received designs for a nuclear bomb from Pakistan that it handed over to U.S. and British intelligence last month, European diplomats say.
Khan, however, has denied making a confession, according to the leading Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
Pakistan itself relied on international black market supplies for the equipment used in its nuclear weapons program that started in the 1970s.
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