Menon to brief IAEA tomorrow

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New Delhi, Jul 17 (UNI) Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon will brief the 35-member Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna tomorrow on the India-specific Safeguards Agreement which was circulated to them (the Board) on July 7.

The IAEA Board will take up the Safeguards Agreement for consideration on August 1.

The Foreign Secretary will be accompanied by Mr R D Grover, Chief Negotiator of the Safeguards Agreement, and Indian Ambassador in Vienna Saurabh Singh, sources said.

The special briefing by the Foreign Secretary which was earlier scheduled for tomorrow morning, will now be held sometime in the afternoon, the sources said, adding that of the 35 members of the Board of Governors, 26 are members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) whose approval is essential for the ratification of the July 18, 2005, Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement.

After clearing the hurdle at the IAEA, the deal will be taken up by the NSG and then by the US Congress before its is implemented, ending India's nuclear apartheid.

Initially, India had decided to brief all the 144 members of the IAEA. It was however, later decided to brief only the 35-member Board of Governors since 26 of them are members of the NSG.

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

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 7, asked the IAEA to cirulate the draft Safeguards Agreement among its Board of Governors after the 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 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.

UNI RB GT RK1728

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