It was the first time the Pakistani government has acknowledged that Abd al-Qadir Khan actually gave material to Iran, although it has admitted in the past that his group sold technology and blueprints to several countries.

 

"Dr Abd al-Qadir gave some centrifuges to Iran," Information Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmad said. "He helped Iran in his personal capacity, and the Pakistan government had nothing to do with it."

 

Ahmad originally made the remarks at a seminar in Islamabad organised by a local newspaper group, in which he stuck by Pakistan's insistence that despite his crimes, Khan would never be handed over to a third country for prosecution.

 

Father of bomb

 

Ahmad said Islamabad was fully cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world's nuclear watchdog.

 

"Abd al-Qadir Khan
helped Iran in his personal capacity, and the Pakistan government had nothing to do with it"

Shaikh Rashid Ahmad,
Pakistan information minister

Khan, considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear programme, confessed last year that he sold nuclear technology to Iran - Pakistan's southwestern neighbour - as well as North Korea and Libya.

 

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pardoned the disgraced scientist and allowed him to keep the riches he allegedly earned from the trade.

 

However, the scientist remains restricted to his home in an upscale neighbourhood of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

 

The government has steadfastly denied any official involvement in the proliferation.