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Reports of Iranian ships call at Indian port overwritten: US

Written by: Staff

Washington, Apr 4: The United States has dismissed as ''overwritten'' reports that India was training or contributing to Iran's military capabilities just because two ships with Iranian naval cadets had made port calls in southern India last month.

Confirming that the ships had made port calls, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said yesterday the ships visits were a ''limited type of event.'' Replying to questions on the issue, Ereli said ''I think those reports were overwritten. We looked into those and our understanding is that there were two ship visits -- or there were ship visits by two ships with naval cadets from Iran into Indian ports. They were not training programmes. They were ship visits with naval cadets.

That's a much more limited type of event and doesn't suggest Indian training or Indian contribution to Iranian military capabilities.'' To suggestions that perhaps the Iranian ships visit took place at an ''awkward time'' when the US Congress was mulling legislation on the nuclear deal, Mr Ereli said Iranian naval vessels visit a number of countries besides India that are friendly to the United States. I don't think that one undercuts the other.''

Ereli said, ''I don't think that visits by two Indian naval ships should call into question India's-- (a) firm commitment to nonproliferation, (b) strong record as a responsible international actor and (c) let's remember, who voted to report Iran's safeguards agreement violations to the UN Security Council? India. So India has a very responsible record in this regard that I don't think should be doubted.''

The same issue of Iranian ships calling at an Indian port was raised by Congressman Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee during his meeting last week with India's Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.

Lantos, who supports the agreement, told Mr Saran last week that the naval visits could have adverse effect on the nuclear deal now under Congressional scrutiny. Saran, however, assured Lantos that the visits were ''just a routine friendship exchange, and we have these (visits) all the time.''

Saran later told reporters that he assured Lantos that ''his apprehensions in this regard were misplaced.'' Lantos, a holocaust survivor from Hungary, has been incensed with Iran ever since its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a conference in Tehran that the state of Israel should be 'wiped off the map'.


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