Published: Sunday 29 February 2004

With Pakistan's top scientists confessing that they played a key role in developing Iran's nuclear programme, the existence of a grey market peddling the lethal weapons has been confirmed. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea), which works towards global cooperation in the nuclear field, has now revealed that Libya too may have acquired a nuclear bomb design from the same sources.

iaea head Mohamed ElBaradei feels that international export controls have failed to act as safeguards. "A nuclear black market has emerged, driven by fantastic cleverness. Designs are drawn in one country and centrifuges produced in another. They are then shipped via a third country, and there is no clarity about the end user. Libya and Iran used this network," he observes. Nuclear experts, unscrupulous firms and perhaps states themselves may be involved in such transactions.

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