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Nuclear program's leader confined to capital

The father of Pakistan's nuclear program, considered a national hero for giving the Islamic world its first atomic bomb, has been confined to the capital as investigators try to determine whether scientists leaked weapons technology, an acquaintance said Saturday.

Abdul Qadeer Khan has been questioned "many times" in recent weeks, said Zahid Malik, author of the book Islamic Bomb, about Pakistan's nuclear program.

"He's cooperating (with the investigation) but he's satisfied that he's done nothing wrong," said Malik, who met with Khan on Thursday.

After denying for years that its scientists might have been involved in proliferation and provided technology to North Korea, Iran, Libya and Iraq, Pakistan recently acknowledged some people might have leaked information for personal profit.

On Saturday, President Pervez Musharraf said the extreme secrecy surrounding the development of Pakistan's nuclear program 30 years ago gave wide latitude to scientists _ and possibly allowed them to sell information.

"Covert meant scientists moved around with full autonomy in a secretive manner," he said, adding that the program "could succeed only if there was total autonomy and nobody knew. That is how it continued."

"Now, if there was some individual or individuals, unscrupulous, if they were for personal gain selling national assets . . . it was possible because it was not open, it was not under strategic check and controls. That is why it was possible," he added.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Musharraf said his country's investigation started after Iran disclosed to the U.N. inspection agency the names of people who provided them with nuclear technology _ including Pakistani scientists.

Musharraf said agents were investigating whether Pakistani government officials knew of technology being leaked overseas. The inquiry also includes checks into the bank accounts of scientists and authorities who have been detained in connection with the suspected information leaks, an Interior Ministry official said.

The official said investigators suspect one scientist and one other person did something for personal gain. He would give no names or further details.

"Pakistan's investigations are vigorous. And they are looking into all dimensions, including financial aspects," Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan told the Associated Press.

Eight scientists and administrators from the Khan Research Laboratories _ Pakistan's leading nuclear weapons facility that is named after Khan _ are being held for what the government has labeled "debriefings."

One scientist, Saeed Mansoor Ahmad, was released late Saturday, said Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who added that interrogations could be over within a week.

Although he is confined to the capital, Khan is continuing his work as an adviser in the prime minister's office, Malik said.

"He's restricted to Islamabad but goes to his office in the prime minister's secretariat," Malik said.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the U.N. atomic agency, said this week the nuclear proliferation allegations involved a "very sophisticated network of black market" operators. But he said he had seen no evidence the Pakistani government was involved.