Nuclear-armed, `rogue` Pakistan to chair IAEA board

It refuses to sign NPT & was home to a notorious nuke smuggling ring- Pak now heads IAEA board.

Vienna: Pakistan, which refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and was home to a notorious nuclear smuggling ring, was named head of the UN nuclear watchdog`s governing board on Monday.

At a special one-day meeting, the International Atomic Energy Agency`s 35-member board of governors appointed "by acclamation" the head of Pakistan`s Atomic Energy Commission, Ansar Parvez, as its chairman for the next 12 months, taking over from Malaysia.

At a special one-day meeting, the International Atomic Energy Agency`s 35-member board of governors appointed "by acclamation" the head of Pakistan`s Atomic Energy Commission, Ansar Parvez, as its chairman for the next 12 months, taking over from Malaysia.

The board of governors is the IAEA`s most important policy-making body after the 151-nation general conference and meets five times a year.

Its rotating chair is appointed for a period of one year with the main task of presiding over debates and helping the board of governors reach consensus decisions.

Parvez said he saw no problem with the choice, even though Pakistan, like India and Israel, refuses to sign the NPT.

Pakistan has held the chair before and India has done so twice.

Some observers see Pakistan as a potential problem because it was home to a nuclear-smuggling ring run by scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan`s atomic bomb and a national hero.

Khan publicly confessed in 2004 that he shared atomic secrets with Iran, Libya and North Korea, although he later retracted his remarks.

There is also concern about the security of Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal and stockpile of weapons-grade material, and the danger of it falling into the hands of Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents.

But speaking to reporters after his appointment, Parvez insisted that Pakistan was a "very law-abiding member" of the IAEA.

"We have been a member of the IAEA ever since it was created. All our civil installations are under IAEA" safeguards, he said.

In fact, given Pakistan`s special position, "maybe we can try to mediate in some of the things which the IAEA has been dealing with for the last few years," Parvez argued.

He said that he had heard no objections to Pakistan`s nomination inside the board room. Furthermore, it was the duty of the chair to remain neutral.

"This is just a routine change. This time it was the turn of MESA (Middle East and South Asia group) and they unanimously nominated Pakistan," Parvez said.

Western diplomats at the closed-door board meeting on Monday also said they had no particular problem with Pakistan taking over the chair.

Bureau Report

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