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Govt under fire for voting against Iran at IAEA

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New Delhi, Feb 27: The government today (Feb 27, 2006) came under fire in Rajya Sabha from its ally, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for voting against Iran at the IAEA on earlier two occasions even as it made clear that India would take a position in its national interest at the next vote on March six.

The government, clearly on the backfoot, maintained that whatever it had done, was in national interest and the coming vote too, would depend upon national interest.

Mr Sitaram Yechuri (CPM), in unequivocal terms, asked the government to abstain from the next vote on March six and not succumb to US pressure. The US was doing with Iran ''exactly what it had done with Iraq ten years ago,'' he said asking the government to take a firm stand during the visit of US President George Bush.

Initiating a debate in the House on India's position on Iran, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj accused the government of succumbing to US pressure and deviating from its stated position.

Admitting that the country could not afford a nuclear weapon State in its neighbourhood and that Iran should remain a signatory to the NPT and under IAEA safeguards, she said India, at the time of the vote, should have raised the issue of clandestine supplies from the A Q Khan network in Pakistan. However, India had lost the opportunity.

She warned that any US misadventure in Iran could have serious implications, particularly for Indian economy, as 85 per cent of oil and 90 per cent gas to India came from the Gulf.

She described it 'a foreign policy failure' the voting at the IAEA and said India should have played a role to avoid a vote.

"If Iran is violating the NPT, who is behind it?" she asked.

while accusing the US of pushing it to the wall.

Ms Swaraj also criticised the government for being 'soft' on US Ambassador to India, David C Mulford, even after his 'provocative' statement linking the Iran vote with Indo-US Nuclear agreement.

Calling for avoiding a similar situation at the March six vote, Ms Swaraj disputed the government's claim that the vote would not make any difference to India-Iran traditional ties. Mr Yechuri, while asking the government to abstain from the March 6 vote and not side with the US, said the CPM had noted 'with displeasure and anguish' the recent developments.

India, being a leader of developing countries and an important founder-member of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), had aligned with the US in this particular case, he added.

He said the issue needed to be resolved through dialogue and discussions and not confrontation and the path the US was adopting, was of confrontation.

It was a 'very serious breach' of foreign policy allowing it to be taken beyond the IAEA.

"The government must seriously think and ensure that on March six, it does not side with the US but abstain...There is no scope for any other body to enter the dispute". He said that what was being done with Iran today, was exactly what was done with Iraq ten years ago. "Roadmap is the same...India is subscribing to that agenda". He said "any 'gains' from the Indo-US Nuclear energy agreement would be 'washed off' by the increase in energy prices and its repercussions on India if the US strikes Iran", he added.

He called for a national consensus on the issue before the March 6 vote.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal while giving the government's version, asserted that the March 6 decision would be guided by national interest.

He rubbished the charge that India's earlier decisions would impact on Indo-Iranian relations and cited a number of occasions when Iran had voted against India in many international fora, specifically on Kashmir.

That did not spoil India's relations with Iran because India understood that Iran's decisions were guided by its national interest.

"The history of diplomacy is history of national interest. On March 6, we will take a position in our national interest", Mr Sibal added.

UNI

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