Zardari told US he'd give IAEA access to AQ Khan "if he had his way": 2008 cable

Islamabad, May 25(ANI): Months before he became Pakistan's President, Asif Ali Zardari told the United States that if he had his way, he would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan. According to a diplomatic cable unveiled by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, the then US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, and Deputy Chief of the Mission Peter Bodde met Zardari in April 2008. Both the DCM and Patterson expressed deep concern over the Pakistan Government's statements and press reports indicating that the restrictions on AQ Khan, who was under de facto house arrest, were about to be lifted. "Zardari said flatly that the reports about GOP interest in releasing Khan were untrue... "If I had my way," said Zardari, "I would give the IAEA access to Khan"," the cable said. During the meeting, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Co-Chair insisted that the Pakistan Government had no/no plans to release Khan. "I told Foreign Minster Qureshi, who has no decision-making role on this issue, to stop talking about Khan," stated Zardari, alleging that false information was being leaked to embarrass the PPP. The cable, published by the Dawn, recalled that the statement made by Zardari's late wife and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 before she returned to Pakistan from the US, that she would grant the IAEA access to Khan, had been highly controversial in Pakistan. "Both Musharraf's party and (PML-N chief) Nawaz Sharif criticized her extensively during the campaign on this point. Now that Nawaz is part of the coalition government, Zardari's options for delivering on Benazir's promise are more limited. The good news is, however, that Zardari understands the negative reaction lifting restrictions would have in Washington," the cable commented. (ANI)