Pakistani 'Defector'
Nuke Story Falling Apart
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A week after a Pakistani man came forward with claims to secret knowledge about a possible nuclear strike against India, his story is raising increasing doubts.
Iftikhar Khan Chaudhary, who asked U.S. authorities for political asylum,has been disavowed by his own father and now by a Pakistani physicist at Princeton University, Zia Mian.
"It was like 'Alice in Wonderland,' " Mian said Tuesday of an hour-long interview with Khan. "It had no connection to reality."
Somewhat more diplomatically, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said there were "significant discrepancies" in the story Khan told U.S. government officials.
Khan, who claimed to be a nuclear scientist, said last week he had fled to the United States in search of political asylum to protest Pakistan's alleged plans to carry out a preemptive nuclear strike.
Mian debunked the notion that Khan had received extensive training in the nuclear field, saying Khan's account of his education was inconsistent with university requirements in Pakistan.
Khan claimed to have earned a medical degree, then decided to work as a nuclear plant technician even though he could have earned more as a doctor. He said he earned a master's degree in physics in 1995 from Karachi University.
Asked about his time in the physics department, whose instructors are all known to Mian, Khan apparently made up names of his professors, Mian said.
"He couldn't name anybody who was there. He couldn't name any of the courses that he took. He couldn't even locate the physics buildings" on the campus, Mian said. Khan's father told Pakistani television last week that his son studied business, not nuclear science.
Mian said Khan's English was so poor that early in the interview the conversation was switched to Urdu. Joining in the interview was A.H. Nayyar, a Pakistani physicist who is doing research this summer at Princeton.
"His English should have been fairly fluent," Mian said, as all graduate-level science instruction in Pakistan is in English, because most of the world's technical literature is in English.
Khan claimed to have studied physics in his native Urdu, which the two Pakistani professors considered impossible.
When they asked Khan about his supposed employment at a Karachi nuclear power station, Khan did not know what fuel was used for the reactor, Mian said. "Considering that he (supposedly) worked there for five years and had a master's degree in physics and had studied atomic physics, he should have known what the fuel was," he said.
Khan was unavailable for comment Tuesday but he talked with a Washington Post reporter about his conversation with the Princeton professors.
Khan told the Post he has been "very tense" and didn't remember enough about his physics courses to be able to respond to the questions posed by the professors.
Mian also criticized the media for reporting Khan's claims without checking his background at a time when "these kinds of inflammatory stories" could have worsened tensions between Pakistan and India.
"I think it was shockingly irresponsible to have done this," he said.
Immigration Service spokesman Russ Bergeron said that if the claims of a person seeking political asylum are found not to be credible, he could be subject to deportation if he has no legal status for remaining in the United States.

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