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No comparision between India and Iran: US

By Super

Washington, Mar 30: The United States has strongly defended the civilian nuclear deal with India, saying it materialised only after New Delhi's commitment to meet non-proliferation goals.

As Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran was holding crucial talks with lawmakers and officials, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack countered the remarks made by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier earlier in the day, that the deal came at a wrong time when international efforts were for curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

''Our view, in sum, is that at the end of the day, India has been a responsible member of the international community when it comes to issues of non-proliferation,'' Mr McCormack said.

Iran, on the other hand, he said ''has abrogated its treaty obligations not to seek to develop a nuclear weapon, continually lied to the international community about that, continually deceived the international community about that. And certainly we do have concerns about Iran's involvement in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.'' He also mentioned how the Iranian regime had contacts with the network of disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist A Q Khan, which was in business to help parties develop nuclear weapons. ''So the track record of Iran with regard to non-proliferation behaviour, stands in stark contrast to India.'' Condemning the parallels drawn by critics on India and Iran, Mr McCormack emphasised that ''it is on merits of behaviour by the Indian Government that we have concluded the agreement between the United States and India and are now working with the Congress to seek some changes in US law that would allow that agreement to be fully implemented.'' The State Department spokesman said President George W Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ''as well as other members of this administration have talked about the importance of this agreement between the United States and India. And certainly we have talked about it in the past, how we would differ with anybody who tries to make any comparisons between the behaviour of Iran and the behaviour of India.'' Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an interview with German daily Handelsblatt that a civil nuclear energy deal struck between the United States and India earlier this month was not helpful given that it came in the midst of talks on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

''There is no question that in light of the continuing talks over the Iranian nuclear programme, the timing of the American-Indian agreement was not helpful,'' Mr Steinmeier said, adding that such agreements could help bring countries into the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime. Under the terms of the nuclear initiative, India has agreed to put a majority of its existing power reactors, as well as those under construction, under ''permanent'' International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) safeguards in exchange for civilian nuclear technology for its vast energy needs. India is the fifth largest consumer of energy in the world.

US officials, including Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph have testified before the House and the Senate defending the deal as a net gain for non-proliferation and global security.

They have contended that a US-India deal, to share nuclear technology and fuel, is crucial for a close US ally determined to meet massive energy demands.

Since then the administration has also mounted an aggressive campaign on Capitol Hill to convince lawmakers and the public that the deal is the cornerstone of a new global partnership with India.

''If Congress agrees to amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, it brings India into the international situation in a way it has never been brought in before'' Mr Burns said recently.

However, critics of the deal feel that giving an exemption to India would encourage other countries to circumvent rules in their desire to acquire a nuclear weapon.

The latest to join the chorus of critics on the deal is former US President Jimmy Carter, who in an op-ed column in the Washington Post on yesterday said it was ''just one more step in opening a pandora's box of nuclear proliferation''.

''Knowing for more than three decades of Indian leaders' nuclear ambitions, I and all other Presidents included them in a consistent policy -- no sales of civilian nuclear technology or uncontrolled fuel to any country that refused to sign the NPT,'' Mr Carter said.

''India may be a special case, but reasonable restraints are necessary,'' he said, adding that the Bush administration had often cited what it called India's unblemished nuclear non-proliferation record to go ahead with deal.

Mr Carter said as the five original nuclear powers had all stopped producing fissile material for weapons, ''India should make the same pledge to cap its stockpile of nuclear bomb ingredients'' and he urged Congress to ''preclude the sale of such technology to India.'' India should also join other nuclear powers in signing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, he said.



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