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Bush Admn beats around the bush

A day after Ambassador David Mulford's outrageous remarks, US is now on a damage control mode.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2006 18:26 IST

In a damage control exercise, the US on Thursday said its Ambassador David C Mulford's comments reflected the "very strongly held feelings" in Congress but a final decision on the issue would be taken by New Delhi.

Mulford had on Wednesday said that there would be a "devastating" effect on the Indo-US nuclear deal if India does not vote against Iran at the IAEA.

"...We deal with the Indian government on these two issues as separate issues. Certainly they come up in conversations," State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters at a briefing.

The spokesman was asked to explain comments made by the US Ambassador to India in an interview toan agency on Wednesday.

Mulford had said that if India did not vote against Tehran's nuclear programme at the IAEA, the fallout on the civilian nuclear deal would be "devastating" and the initiative will "die".

"Let me be clear. Ultimately how India votes on this matter (on Iran) is going to be a decision for the Indian government.They voted to find Iran in non-compliance that last time around," McCormack said.

"But I think what the Ambassador was doing was talking about and reflecting the view on Capitol Hill. There are very strongly held feelings about Iran and the need for the international community to act decisively and firmly and with a single voice concerning Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon," he said.

The spokesman argued that given the three separate branches of government in the US, Ambassador Mulford was "expressing an opinion" about how Congress might react.

And the view of the Executive Branch is that "we would certainly encourage and we would hope that India would vote for a referral to the Security Council", he said.

The spokesman said, "We continue to encourage the Indian Government to vote for referral.

"Ultimately that is going to be their decision. And we have also been talking to them about the importance of making progress on their implementation plan for separating the civilian and military nuclear programmes".

Asked what would happen to the civilian nuclear accord if India did not vote for referring Iran to the Security Council, McCormack said the administration would continue to work with the government of India on the implementation of the agreement with the hope that progress could be made on the issue in time for the President George W Bush's visit to India this March.

"Part of making progress on this issue is for the Indian government to present a workable plan that would separate the Indian civilian and military nuclear programmes. We're still talking about that issue with the Indian government and I expect those discussions will continue," the spokesman said.

First Published: Jan 26, 2006 17:43 IST