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US scientists averse to nuke deal

The Federation of American Scientists, backed by Nobel Laureates, said ad hoc agreements ''undercut'' world security.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 11:27 IST

A body of US scientists, backed by a group of Nobel Laureates, has opposed the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, claiming that the accord "weakens" the existing non-proliferation regime and urged the US Congress not to approve it in the present form.

Releasing a letter signed by 37 Nobel Laureates in support of its claim, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said that "ad hoc agreements" like the one with India "undercut" US and world security.

"Nothing is more important to US security than blocking further proliferation and possible use of nuclear weapons. The recent nuclear agreement with India weakens the existing non-proliferation regime without providing an acceptable substitute. It should not be approved in its current form," said the letter, addressed to the US Congress.

In the letter, the Nobel Laureates have argued that the Non-Proliferation Treaty which is the backbone of international efforts to step the spread of nuclear weapons is "crumbling" and that it needs to be replaced with a new international framework that will reflect the "dramatic changes" that have taken place over the last three decades.

"New agreements must preserve the many strengths of the current treaty and increase international participation. Bi-lateral, ad hoc agreements such as the one just announced with India undercut US and world security," they claimed.

"Rapid growth of civilian nuclear power, will greatly increase both the amount of fissionable material transported and stored worldwide and the number of nuclear production facilites that can also be used to build nuclear weapons, the letter cautioned.

"It is essential that the US help lead an international effort to design nuclear proliferation controls that reflect these new dangers, a regime that India can fully support.

Such an agreement must include willingness by the US, Russia and other nuclear powers to renounce the legitimacy of nuclear weapons and reduce their number ot levels far below those called for in existing agreements," the Nobel Laureates told the Congress.

During a panel discussion that followed the release of the letter, speakers Leonard Weiss, Consultant and former Staff Director of the US Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, and Michael Krepon, Co Founder and President Emeritus of the Stimson Centre, criticised the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Weiss argued that the civilian nuclear energy accord was a "bad deal" in that it failed to factor in a number of issues.

The deal "rendered moot" the relevant UN Security Council Resolution in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests by India and the Article One violations of the NPT by the Bush administration, he said.

Weiss alleged that enough attention was not paid to the breeder programmes of India which he termed as the "biggest problem" and the implications of the deal on China and Pakistan.