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India-Iran relations cause for concern in Congress

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    Washington, Apr 6: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the United States had concerns over India's relationship with Iran but will not ask New Delhi to sever its links with Tehran in exchange for civilian nuclear technology.

    ''The United States has made very clear to India that we have concerns about their relationship with Iran. We have made clear to them that we have concerns about the pipeline,'' Ms Rice told the Senate and House panels in response to lawmakers concern over India-Iran relations yesterday.

    ''We have made clear to them that we have concerns about their initial reservations about bringing Iran before the UN Security Council over its nuclear programme,'' Ms Rice added.

    When Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer asked why the administration did not make India's severing relations with Iran as a pre-condition to the India-US nuclear deal, Ms Rice said: ''I would just note that there are a number of countries that have relations with Iran. And it's, of course, a sovereign right of a country to have relations with whomever they would like to have relations.'' ''I believe we are not going to do better in pulling India towards us by insisting that they cut off relations with other states. I don't think that's going to work very effectively,'' she added.

    Ms Boxer, a staunch critic of the Bush administration during the hearing raised questions about India's military relationship with Iran, highlighting reports that Iranian navy ships had recently visited an Indian port.

    Several Senators during the hearing expressed concerns over India's military links with Iran, including New Delhi's reported training of Iranian naval personnel.

    ''There have been and probably will be Iranian port calls in a number of countries in a number of countries in the world,'' Ms Rice said.

    Ms Rice said there had been Iranian ship port calls in India. But she said: '' The assertion we understand that they train Iranian sailors, is not right.'' Mr Tom Lantos, a Democrat on the House panel, also expressed concerns over India's ties with Iran. He said that he told India's Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran last week that India must reassure Congress and the American public that it knows well what it means to be a strategic ally of the United States.

    ''Any military cooperation with the present terrorist regime in Iran will certainly derail this deal in Congress. And I hope that will not happen,'' he said.

    ''It is time for India to recognize that its interests lie with the United States and with our allies. India's strength, security, and economic vitality will grow indirect proportion to the closeness of its association with us,'' he added.

    UNI

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