- NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man seeking asylum in the United States and claiming
to be a Pakistani atomic researcher said Wednesday Pakistan had planned
a preemptive nuclear attack on India in April. The man, Iftikhar Khan Chaudry,
told a news conference the plan was dropped after he and other researchers
who opposed the attack threatened to expose it publicly. The United States
said Wednesday it was unable to confirm or deny his allegations and declined
to comment. ``We have no information beyond what is reported in the media
that can confirm or deny this gentleman's story. We have no comment on
his claims about Pakistan's nuclear weapons program,'' State Department
spokesman James Rubin said. Khan, 29, said the planned attack was designed
to wipe out the Indian capital New Delhi and military targets, including
nuclear weapons sites. ``Pakistan decided on a preemptive attack on India
because the Pakistani government had information that India was planning
to attack Pakistan and the target was Kohutta,'' site of a secret nuclear
weapons laboratory near the capital Islamabad, he told Reuters. A spokesman
for the Pakistani Embassy in Washington was not immediately available for
comment. India and Pakistan carried out nuclear tests in May, raising fears
of an arms race in South Asia. In retaliation, the United States imposed
economic sanctions on both countries.
At the news conference, Khan said military and political officials agreed
at an April 25 meeting to attack within a couple of days. Khan opposed
the plans and fled Pakistan after receiving death threats from government
officials. He entered the United States from Canada on May 22 seeking political
asylum. Khan said he wanted to give information about the Pakistan program
in exchange for security. His lawyer, Michael Wildes, said Khan had met
twice with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss his
allegations. Khan said China helped Pakistan make nuclear weapons by supplying
material and trained personnel. The Islamabad government also is helping
Iran develop its own nuclear weapons program in exchange for oil, he said.
Asked if the government wanted to explore Khan's claims, Rubin, the State
Department spokesman, said: ``I'm sure that when people of this nature
come forward with information that would matter to our national security
interests that we would want to try to ascertain the veracity and utility
of that information.'' At the news conference with his lawyer, Khan provided
a photocopy of a 1993 Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission identity card.
It described him as an assistant research officer at the Khushab nuclear
site. Khan said the decision to attack India was made April 25 at a meeting
at Khushab that he attended. The meeting was chaired by army Chief of Staff
Gen. Jehangir Karamat and included senior military and political officials,
he said. ``They were tense. They decided to attack ... with nuclear weapons,''
he said. ``There was no opposition to this decision.'' Khan said he and
four colleagues sent a letter the next day to the atomic commission's chief
scientific officer, Altaf Hussain, saying they would go public with their
opposition. He provided reporters what he said was a copy of the letter,
which was handwritten and in English. Khan said he got death threats from
government officials and security agents seized his wife. He and the other
scientists fled the country. His 5-year-old son is with Khan's parents
in Pakistan, he said.
Pakistan Denies Existence
Of Scientist "Defector''
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan on Thursday denied that a man who
says he is a defecting nuclear scientist worked for Pakistan's Atomic Energy
- ``PAEC does not have a post of Assistant
Research Office and we did not have an officer by the name of Iftikar Chaudry
who quit the Commission,'' Dr Samar Mobariikmand, a leading member of the
PAEC told the Nation newspaper.
- He was commenting on news conference
in New York given by a man calling himself Iftikhar Khan Chaudry who said
he had defected with other scientists after Pakistan planned a pre-emptive
strike against arch-foe India. He showed a photocopy of a 1993 PAEC identity
card which described him as an assistant research officer at the Khushan
- Khan said that Pakistan planned a pre-emptive
nuclear strike against India in April, the month before New Delhi conducted
five nuclear tests which Pakistan countered with several of its own.
- Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan said
that the PAEC had carried out a headcount and none of its staff were missing.
He told the Nation that reports of pre-emptive strikes were nonsense. ``There
never was such a strategy.''
- The foreign minister said that it was
``a pure case of asylum'' and there were hundreds of similar cases of people
seeking refuge in the United States.
- Khan entered the United States from Canada
on May 22 seeking political asylum. He said he wanted to give information
about the Pakistan programme in exchange for security. His lawyer, Michael
Wildes, said Khan had met twice with agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau
of Investigation to discuss his allegations.
- Pakistan has ridiculed western media
reports that five Pakistani scientists defected. The country faces severe
economic difficulties after the United States and Japan, key trading partners,
imposed sanctions to punish the government for its nuclear experiments.