Friday, February 13, 2004

SMB Group/NATO flight center

A company in the United Arab Emirates has been singled out as the hub of AQ Khan's nuclear black market network:

Computer salesmen and technicians wandered around in shock, and the receptionist could not handle the number of calls that were coming in from around the world on Thursday to the sleek headquarters of SMB Group, an information technology company.

The cause of the disruption was President Bush's speech to the National Defense University on Wednesday, in which he described the nuclear black market network created by the Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. Mr. Bush said that Dr. Khan's deputy was B. S. A. Tahir, who "ran SMB Computer, a business in Dubai," which was a "front for the proliferation activities of the A.Q. Khan network."

Puzzled employees said they had more questions than answers and declined to comment. In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Seyed Ibrahim Bukhary, the owner and manager of SMB Group, said it dealt only in legal computer sales. He said the man Mr. Bush mentioned, Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, has no ownership in the group, and is not involved in the management at any level. Mr. Bukhary is Mr. Tahir's younger brother.

In the trading network that Dr. Khan spawned to sell nuclear equipment and designs, some companies involved were doing legitimate business in finely tooled parts without knowing where the components would end up. Others were agents for Dr. Khan, forwarding secret shipments to Libya, Iran and other countries, knowing these countries were working on secret nuclear programs.

Meanwhile, NATO has opened a new military flight center in the United Arab Emirates:

NATO allies have agreed to establish a military air training center in the United Arab Emirates.

Britain, France and the United States have pledged to cooperate in forming the Air Warfare Center at the UAE air base at Al Dhafra. The air base will also be used by the United States to train UAE pilots on the new F-16 Block 60 aircraft.

The planned air center will allow the three NATO allies to conduct joint operations to defend Gulf Cooperation Council states from external threats. The center will be operated by the UAE Air Force.

The UAE has a range of Western aircraft. They include the Mirage-2000 fighter-jet from France, the British-origin Hawk air trainer and the U.S.-origin AH-64A Apache attack helicopter.


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