Menon likely to go to IAEA on July 18

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New Delhi, Jul 15 (UNI) Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon will go to Vienna on July 18 for discussions with the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA on the Safeguards Agreement which will be taken up by the (IAEA) Board of Governors for consideration on August one.

The approval by the world nuclear regulatory body of the India-specific Safeguards Agreement is a key condition for putting into effect the July 18, 2005, Indo-US Nuclear Agreement.

The 35-nation nuclear regulatory body will convene a special meeting on August one to consider the Safeguards Agreement.

''India will brief the IAEA's Board of Governors on this Friday (July 18),'' the sources said.

Asked who will represent India, the sources said ''most likely the Foreign Secretary will be going.'' India on July 8 asked the IAEA to circulate he Safeguards Agreement among its Board of Governors after the Left Parties withdrew support to the Manmohan Singh government. The text of the Agreement was subsequently released by the government on July 10.

The 24-page document clears the way for India to take the next step -- approach the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) -- and inch towards the finalisation of the July 18, 2005, Civilian Nuclear Agreement with the United States.

The Safeguards Agreement allows India to take ''corrective measures'' to ensure uninterrupted operation of its civilian nuclear facilities in the event of disruption of foreign fuel supplies.

It also ensures that India's strategic interests are not compromised, a fear the opposition parties have raised.

India has given an undertaking that none of its items, subject to this Agreement, will be used for the manufacture of any nuclear weapon or to further any other military purpose and that these would be used exlcusively for civilian purposes.

''Upon entry into force of this Agrement, and a determination by India that all conditions conducive to the accomplishment of the objective of this agreement are in place, India shall file with the Agency a Declaration based on its sovereign decision to place voluntarily its civilian nuclear facilities under the Agency safeguards in a phased manner,'' the Agreement says.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reiterated that the deal ''will in no way impinge on the country's strategic programme'' and would end the era of nuclear apartheid against India.

Stating that ''India will never allow any extraneous interference in the conduct of our independent foreign policy,'' the Prime Minister said India would continue to seek good relations with all its Asian neighbours.

Dr Singh said the Safeguards Agreement would enable India to cooperate in civil nuclear energy development with all the 45-member countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), including the US, Russia, France and China.

After clearance by the IAEA, the deal will go to the NSG whose approval is crucial. The last hurdle is the US Congress before the deal will be ratified.

UNI RB RR CS1848

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