Pakistan Tried to Buy Furnaces Used For Making Nuclear Weapons Precede WASHINGTON
WEST BERLIN, N.J. (AP) _ Pakistan tried at least twice this year to buy from a U.S. company high- temperature furnaces that can be used in making nuclear weapons, the company’s president said Wednesday.
Raymond Roberts, president of Consarc Corp. of Rancocas, said the company refused to fill the orders.
″The end use that they wished was to produce zirconium, and that’s a metal that has principally nuclear end-uses. We know that the U.S. government has concerns with Pakistan and nuclear weapons, so we elected not to pursue a potential sale,″ Roberts said in a telephone interview from his home.
Roberts said the furnaces were more sophisticated versions of Consarc furnaces whose export to Iraq was approved by the government over the summer. The Iraqi shipment was stopped at the last minute.
He said Pakistan approached Consarc and its British subsidiary early this year with a request to buy arc melting furnaces that cost about $3 million each.
Around the same time, Roberts said, a similar request was received from a Canadian company. He said Consarc did not pursue the Canadian request because of similarities between the Canadian specifications and those of Pakistan.
″It was similar enough to cause us to wonder if it was the same equipment they wanted. We wondered about it,″ Roberts said.
The attempted purchase was first reported in Wednesday’s The Washington Post, which said it had obtained documents describing the incident.
According to the newspaper, Pakistan tried through its embassy in France, and through intermediaries in France and Switzerland, to buy the Consarc furnaces, either directly or through Consarc’s British subsidiary.
A Consarc salesman, Manfred Dickersbach, was quoted in one of the documents as saying that the material to be processed ″appears to be zirconium,″ a metallic element used by suppliers to clad uranium fuel for nuclear reactors.
Irradiated with neutrons in the reactor, the uranium would be transformed into plutonium, from which nuclear weapons may be made more readily than with uranium.
Pakistan, which has steadfastly denied making nuclear weapons, is also believed to have taken steps to make a uranium bomb.
Congress has required that the Bush administration certify that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear weapon before Pakistan may receive U.S. aid.
The administration has approached congressional leaders on the issue about the possibility of waiving the requirement this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Congress is reluctant, and officially, the State Department says no decision has been made on what to do.
No one could be reached from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. The press spokesman has an unpublished telephone number.