Menon to brief IAEA board on July 18

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New Delhi, Jul 16 (UNI) The meeting between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) scheduled on July 18 at Vienna, will have greater participation from both sides, official sources said here today.

''Foreign Secretary (Shivshankar Menon) will brief the IAEA Board of Governors on the Safeguards Agreement between India and the IAEA at the crucial meeting on July 18,'' a senior official said.

The meeting which was earlier to be held at about 1000 hrs.

will now be held in the afternoon, the sources said adding that there was no change in the date of the meeting.

The Indian side will brief the IAEA member states on the India-specific Safeguards Agreement which will be considered by the 35-member Board of Governors of the nuclear regulatory body on August one.

The meeting will be held four days ahead of the trust vote the Manmohan Singh government will face in Parliament following the withdrawal of support by its main allies--the Left Front.

The Foreign Secretary will also brief the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) countries who are not members of the IAEA Board, the official said.

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.

India had, on July 8, asked the IAEA to ciruclate the draft Safeguards agreement among its Board of Governors after he Left Parties withdrew suport 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 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.

India has given an undertaking that none of its items, subject to this Agreement, shall be used for manufacturing 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 Agency safeguards in a phased manner,'' the Agreement says.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also 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 is ratified.

UNI RB SK NS1707

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