From: Karin Strohecker, Reuters
Published September 11, 2007 11:38 AM

South Africa Warns Nations Of Active Nuke Smugglers

VIENNA (Reuters) - Parts of a global nuclear smuggling ring initiated by the disgraced father of Pakistan's atom bomb may remain active and nations must do more to crack down on the network, South Africa said on Tuesday.


The plea followed last week's conviction by a South African court of a German engineer for his part in the network run by Abdul Qadeer Khan, who admitted giving proliferation-prone nuclear technology to nations under international embargo.


The network apparently operated in more than 30 countries, senior South African envoy Abdul Minty told a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors. Some of those entities may remain active, he told reporters afterwards.


"As long as those groups find that they are not prosecuted and convicted and they can maybe earn more money and continue with similar activities, then potentially there is a great danger there," he said.


"What is now required from all countries affected by the illicit network is enhanced efforts by the respective authorities in close cooperation with the IAEA," Minty said.


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He also said affected countries' cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency had been uneven, with some nations providing full support while others offered none whatsoever.


He declined to identify those countries.


South Africa voluntarily dismantled its own nuclear weapons program before the end of the apartheid era in 1994. The country was among the 20 named by the IAEA as recipients of Khan's atomic secrets.


Gerhard Wisser, a German resident in South Africa, pleaded guilty to involvement in a global black market in nuclear weapons technology and was handed a suspended 18-year jail sentence by a court in Pretoria on September 4.


The case was part of an international effort to crack what prosecutors said was a trade network that helped Libya, North Korea and Iran skirt sanctions to obtain nuclear technology.


Wisser struck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to forgery as well as manufacturing and exporting autoclaves and other components that could be used in nuclear weapons programs in Libya and Pakistan.


His sentence was suspended for five years on condition that Wisser would fully cooperate with South African authorities on further investigations into the network.


Swiss citizen and engineer Daniel Geiges, who was charged along with Wisser and has been diagnosed as terminally ill with cancer, is due to appear in a South African court on September 21 to answer charges similar to the German. South African Johan Meyer, a third man arrested in the case, turned state witness.


The United States urged countries to remain vigilant.


"The A.Q. Khan network delivered nuclear technology to states of proliferation concern, including North Korea and Iran," Washington said in a statement at the board meeting.


"We must be mindful that future networks might attempt to deliver nuclear materials and know-how, not only to states but to terrorist groups as well."


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