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Iran N-issue: US official cautions India

What irked Congressman Tom Lantos was India?s decision to endorse a NAM statement backing Iran?s N-project.

india Updated: Jun 22, 2006 14:54 IST

A key US lawmaker on the House of the International Relations Committee has warned India not to jeopardise Indo-US civilian nuclear deal by supporting Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Ranking Democrat on the Committee, Republican Tom Lantos (California) said the legislation on the deal is on track and is coming up for vote before the Committee on June 27 and for a final vote before the US Congress in July, and final approval of the deal would be at risk if India does not act responsibly.

What irked the influential Congressman was India’s recent decision to endorse a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) statement backing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which was opposite to the stand the United States and the UN Security Council members had taken on Iran.

The United States, along with Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany have offered a package of incentives to Tehran to give up its uranium enrichment programme.

Iran has been stalling the issue without a positive response to the UN Security Council members’ call.

"This is a very negative phenomenon and I honestly hope there will be a great deal of care taken by our Indian friends if they want this (nuclear cooperation agreement) to get through Congress and become a reality," Lantos told reporters in Washington on Wednesday night.

It is difficult to understand what other NAM states had in common with "the great democratic state of India", he said.

The NAM and the resolution, which was backed by India, emphasised the right of all states "without any discrimination" to nuclear research and energy production ignoring US calls to endorse the major powers' June 6 offer to Iran to give up its nuclear programme.

Lantos said the Democrats and the Republicans have reached a consensus on the legislation pending before the Committee, which would vote on his and Hyde's bill next Tuesday with action by the full House in July.

Lantos also said attempts could be made by other lawmakers to amend his legislation but said that he would fight proposals considered unacceptable to India or what he called "deal breakers."

But he quickly added that there may be "deal breakers" on the Indian side too and that would undoubtedly be a "blanket endorsement of the Non-Aligned Movement's statements concerning Iran."

Earlier Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns expressed hope that the nuclear deal would be finally approved by the US Congress in July, after the House and Senate return from recess.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is also finalising the legislation to be sponsored by Chairman Richard Lugar and ranking Democrat Joe Biden.

House and Senate committee staffs have yet to make public the versions of the agreement they plan to put forward next week.

However, some lawmakers have declared they would offer amendments to the Bush administration's original proposal. Some possible changes could include:

1. Require India to adopt a moratorium on producing fissile material compounds that can create nuclear energy for civilian or military use.

2. Give Congress an up-or-down vote on the formal Indo-US treaty that would follow initial approval of the deal. That would mean the treaty could be passed or defeated with a simple majority vote. The administration proposal limits Congress to only being able to block the actual treaty with a veto-proof, two-thirds vote.

3. Scuttle the agreement if India tests a nuclear weapon or breaks IAEA nuclear safeguards.

4. Under the deal struck last summer, the United States would lift the ban on supplying sensitive technology and fuel to India’s civilian nuclear-power sector while India agreed to place fourteen of its twenty-two nuclear reactors under safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The deal has to be approved by the US Congress and endorsed by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which regulates global trade in nuclear equipment and technology.