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. Pakistan hands over centrifuge parts to UN nuclear watchdog for Iran tests
ISLAMABAD (AFP) May 26, 2005
In a major turnaround, Pakistan on Thursday confirmed it has sent some parts of an old centrifuge to the UN atomic agency to help it establish whether Iran has been secretly developing nuclear weapons.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requested the parts in connection with its investigations to determine whether contamination found at Iran's nuclear facilities had come from Pakistan or any other source, a foreign ministry official said.

"Components of an old and discarded centrifuge, which have no bearing on our national security, they have been sent with our experts to IAEA for their analysis," ministry spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani told AFP.

Pakistan and the IAEA "are cooperating and analysis of the samples is on the way", agency spokesman Marc Gwozdecky said in Vienna, declining to specify where the analyses were being conducted.

Iran, which says its nuclear program is for the peaceful purpose of making electricity, claims the contaminated equipment came from imported machinery and not from enrichment activities in Iran.

Iran has been subject to more than two years of investigations by the international nuclear watchdog after it emerged the country had been covering up its activities for 18 years.

Britain, France and Germany have been trying to convince Iran to give up its nuclear fuel program altogether, a step seen as the best objective guarantee that the country will not develop the capacity to make weapons, as Washington holds it is doing.

Iran had been threatening to resume fuel work but agreed at a Wednesday meeting to hold off and the two sides are expected to resume talks in August after the European countries detail a package of incentives.

The transfer marks an about-face for Islamabad, which had been insisting it would not surrender the components despite admitting that its disgraced nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, had given centrifuges to Tehran.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said Pakistan and other countries involved in an international nuclear black market that supplied Iran must cooperate if the IAEA is to answer the US charges that Tehran was secretly developing atomic weapons.

Jilani said "we are cooperating with the IAEA in line with our commitment to promote nuclear non-proliferation."

He said the Iranian government also asked Pakistan to cooperate with the IAEA to clear up the controversy, and that the UN body would share the outcome of the analysis with Pakistan.

The IAEA is investigating contamination by microscopic particles of highly-enriched uranium found in Iran at a Tehran workshop, at a pilot enrichment plant at Natanz and at other sites where there were centrifuges.

Enriched uranium can be used both for civil or military purposes, depending on the level of enrichment.

Pakistan's top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who is now under detention, publicly admitted early last year he had passed nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

President Pervez Musharraf gave Khan a conditional pardon and has said that no government or military body was involved in the proliferation scandal.

But Islamabad has refused to let the IAEA carry out the analysis on Pakistani soil because it did not allow foreigners to visit its sensitive facilities.

Musharraf said in March that Islamabad could send the centrifuge parts to end the controversy "once and for all."

A Vienna-based diplomat told AFP that the parts arrived at IAEA's headquarters on Tuesday and that it was Pakistan who had suggested lending the components.

"Pakistan knows what IAEA expectations are and has offered this," said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.

The parts remain technically under Pakistan's control during the entire process.

"The analysis would be conducted in the presence of our own people and they would remain under the custody of our people all the time," said the Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman.

"After the analysis the parts would be brought back by our experts."

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