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Founder of Pakistani Nuke Program Fired

The founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan (search), was removed Saturday from his position as a government adviser amid an investigation into allegations of nuclear proliferation.

Khan was dismissed as a scientific adviser to the prime minister "in the background of the investigations into alleged acts of nuclear proliferation by a few individuals and to facilitate those investigations in a free and objective manner," the government said in a statement.

Khan -- who had held the advisory position since retiring as head of the country's top nuclear facility in 2001 -- has become a key suspect in allegations that Pakistani scientists sold nuclear weapons technology. The probe was launched in November after Iran provided information to the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

It wasn't immediately clear if further legal action would be taken against Khan or any others accused in the investigation.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (search) chaired a meeting Saturday of Pakistan's National Command Authority (search), which controls the country's nuclear assets. The top officials were informed that the investigation "was nearly concluded and appropriate action will be taken against those found guilty," the military said in a statement.

The statement also reiterated that the nuclear program was only intended to deter Pakistan's enemies -- particularly neighboring India -- and "it would never be in the national interest to share this technology in whatever form with any other country."

Six scientists and security officials from the nuclear facility -- the Khan Research Laboratories, named after Khan -- are being held in the probe over allegations of nuclear transfers to Iran and Libya. Khan was not arrested, but acquaintances said he has been restricted to the capital, Islamabad.

Analysts have said a decision to punish top scientists, particularly Khan would be a tough one for Musharraf and would likely trigger an angry reaction from nationalists. Khan remains an icon of impoverished Pakistan's successful campaign to create a formidable nuclear defense against a much larger foe, India.

Officials have said that Khan and a top aide, Mohammed Farooq, have failed to account for money in personal bank accounts. Farooq is among the six scientists in custody.

Khan and Farooq have told investigators they didn't supply any technology to Iran and Libya, and Khan has maintained he did nothing to damage the interests of Pakistan, officials said.

Earlier Saturday, officials had said loose controls at Khan's laboratory allowed a small number of its employees to profit from the nuclear black market. Those findings were to be reviewed by Musharraf at the Saturday meeting.

Pakistan's government says it never sanctioned transfers of nuclear technology to other countries and will act against anyone guilty of doing so. The government has publicly acknowledged "one or two people" acted for personal gain.