Pakistan Tried to Buy Furnaces Similar to Those Iraq Wanted
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pakistan tried three times this year to buy from a New Jersey company high- temperature furnaces useful for making nuclear weapons, a congressional source said Wednesday night.
This source confirmed an account in Wednesday editions of The Washington Post, which said it had obtained documents of an unspecified nature given to administration officials and congressional investigators describing Pakistan’s attempt to buy the furnaces from Consarc Corp. of Rancocas, N.J.
The confirming source had not read the documents, but they had been described to him. He spoke on condition that his name not be used.
The newspaper’s account said the furnaces were more sophisticated versions of Consarc furnaces whose export to Iraq was approved over the summer. The Iraqi shipment was stopped at the last minute.
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.
The inability to obtain export licenses from U.S. or British authorities was said to have prevented the sale.
In the Canadian approach, the manufacture of surgical instruments was given as the intended use of the furnaces.
A Consarc salesman, Manfred Dickersbach, was quoted as saying in one document that the material to be processed ″appears to be zirconium.″
Zirconium is used to clad uranium fuel in nuclear reactors. Fuel for power reactors comes from suppliers already clad.
Irradiated with neutrons in the reactor, the uranium would be transformed into plutonium, from which nuclear weapons may be made more easily than with uranium.
Pakistan is believed to have taken steps to make a uranium bomb also.
Pakistan has steadfastly denied making nuclear weapons. 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.
In Islamabad, a foreign ministry spokesman said reports that Pakistan was trying to buy high-temperature furnaces came as a surprise and questioned their veracity.
″These kinds of stories always come out when we have problems with certification. It’s uncanny . . . (and) they are later disproved,″ said a spokesman who could not be identified under usual briefing rules.
″There is no reason why there shouldn’t be certification this year,″ said the foreign office spokesman.