Friday, March 19, 2004

"Some nuclear thing"

The US, in 1990s, asked Malaysia to halt a shipment of "suspected nuclear parts". This indicates that the US suspected even then that a Malaysian company was producing parts for black-market nuclear programs:

The United States asked Malaysia to halt a shipment of suspected nuclear parts in the 1990s, years before a local company was linked to a network that supplied Libya, Iran and North Korea with weapons-making technology, Malaysia's former leader said on Thursday.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told The Associated Press in an interview that Malaysia stopped one shipment years ago of stainless steel pipes at Washington's request.

"We didn't know where they were headed," Mahathir told The AP. "They didn't say if it was for centrifuges. There were some reports submitted to me, saying that there was this American objection. They said it was meant for some nuclear thing."

Mahathir retired as prime minister Oct. 31 after 22 years in power that saw Malaysia develop as a high-tech manufacturing center. The nuclear parts incident is believed to have occurred in the early 1990s.

A U.S. official posted in this Southeast Asian nation at the time recalled that Washington suspected a Malaysian factory of making parts that could be used for nuclear purposes and were possibly bound for Pakistan. Malaysia contended that the parts had other possible applications.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recalled that a ship was searched but no parts were found. He was unclear on details given the many years that have lapsed.

Last October, a shipment of 25,000 Malaysian-made centrifuge parts for enriching uranium to make nuclear arms was seized in the Mediterranean en route to Libya, uncovering a secret network led by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan.


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