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Negotiate N-safeguards: US senators

This will send the right message to the Senate, the US lawmakers opined.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 10:36 IST

Influential US senators on Thursday advised India to speed up negotiations for a separate safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the early approval of the India-US civil nuclear deal by Congress.

"It will accelerate the process if India can negotiate a safeguards agreement with the IAEA before Senate acts on it (nuclear deal)," Senator Lamar Alexander, a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on Thursday evening.

Alexander, a co-sponsor of the resolution in the Congress in favour of the civil nuclear deal, is in India as part of a four-member delegation headed by Senator Michael Enzi. The team includes another senator and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

"There is growing support in the US Congress for the nuclear deal. I hope it passes this year," Alexander said.

"It is possible that the Senate acts on it before it goes for a recess in August. The more rapidly India goes ahead with the safeguards agreement with the IAEA, it will be better for the deal."

Besides, India will have to negotiate a bilateral civil nuclear agreement with the US that will open up commercial opportunities, he said.

Alexander's comments come close on the heels of US House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert's positive evaluation of the nuclear deal. Hastert, who headed an eight-member Congressional delegation to India, left here for the US on Wednesday.

Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, echoed Alexander's optimism and underlined India's "consistent and predictable record" in non-proliferation.

"India negotiating a safeguards agreement with IAEA will send the right message to the Senate. We have to move expeditiously in the US Senate," Isakscon said.

"India has never been inconsistent in its policy of deterrence. Its policy has always been consistent and responsible. History is the best teacher."

Enzi stressed the "singular nature of the India-US relationship" and said the Iranian nuclear issue and the civil nuclear deal with India were two separate issues.

Rebutting media speculation about a possible military strike against Iran,
ALexander stressed that US President George W Bush was seeking "a diplomatic solution" to the Iranian nuclear problemme.

"The problem will resolve itself in unexpected ways," he predicted optimistically.

All members of the delegation, which also visited Bangalore, showered praise on India's skills in the knowledge industry and lauded Bush for his "vision and initiative" in taking the lead in transforming India-US relations.

"This is a relationship that has truly come of age in a very real way. It's not just about nuclear power, but about so many other exciting areas," said Spellings. She called for greater cooperation in education between the two countries.

The team will travel to Sri Lanka on Friday.