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US groups forge ties against nuclear deal

About 23 groups launch a campaign to stop the deal which will provide India with civilian nuclear fuel.

world Updated: Jan 16, 2008 23:22 IST

Twenty-three US groups launched an effort Tuesday to stop a US deal aimed at providing India with civilian nuclear fuel and technology, saying it would instead beef up New Delhi's atomic weapons capability.

The Campaign for Responsibility in Nuclear Trade said the US-India civilian nuclear agreement would also "dangerously weaken" nonproliferation efforts, embolden Iran and North Korea to pursue nuclear weapons and exacerbate a nuclear arms race in Asia.

US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached an agreement more than two years ago in which Washington would provide India with nuclear fuel and technology even though the nuclear-armed Asian nation has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Under the agreement India had to place selected atomic facilities under international safeguards. It also has to get a green light from the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, a global regulator of nuclear commerce.

An operating agreement together with safeguards has to be cleared by the US Congress before it could be implemented.

"When Congress takes a close look at the Bush Administration's proposed agreement, it will find a dangerous, unprecedented deal," said John Isaacs of the Council for a Livable World, one of the groups opposed to the agreement.

"The proposal undermines over 30 years of nonproliferation policy, will increase India's capability to produce nuclear weapons and its stockpile of nuclear weapons-material, and sends the wrong message to Pakistan during a time of crisis in that country," he said.

The deal "will ultimately be rejected for the sake of preserving national security and global stability," he said.

The US Congress amended US law in December 2006 to create a rare exception for India from some of the requirements of the US Atomic Energy Act, which prohibits nuclear sales to non-NPT signatories.

Washington stopped nuclear cooperation with India after it conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.

Left-wing parties in India also fear the accord may threaten India's nuclear weapons program and allow US intervention in its foreign policy.