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ElBaradei endorses Indo-US nuke cooperation deal

Diplomats from both countries met in New Delhi this week to resolve remaining details in the agreement.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2006 20:44 IST

The head of the UN atomic watchdog on Wednesday praised a US-India nuclear cooperation deal as a 'creative' solution that will ensure New Delhi assists with international efforts to counter the spread of nuclear weapons.

"The US-India agreement is a creative break with the past that, handled properly, will be a first step forward for both India and the international community," Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote in a commentary published in the Washington Post on Wednesday.

"India will get safe and modern technology to help lift more than 500 million people from poverty, and it will be part of the international effort to combat nuclear terrorism and rid our world of nuclear weapons."

The agreement, reached in March, would give energy-starved India access to long-denied civilian nuclear technology in return for placing a majority of its nuclear reactors under international inspection.

Diplomats from both countries met in New Delhi this week to resolve remaining details in the agreement, including differences over a provision that bars India from conducting atomic weapons tests.

ElBaradei acknowledged that some opponents of the agreement say it legitimizes India's status as a nuclear weapons state and may allow India to divert more uranium to produce nuclear weapons.

But he said new approaches were needed to address countries such as India that have nuclear arsenals and fall outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India, Pakistan and Israel -- which is believed to have a nuclear deterrent -- were unlikely to give up their nuclear weapons, he wrote.

"Our traditional strategy -- of treating such states as outsiders -- is no longer a realistic method of bringing these last few countries into the fold," he wrote.

With one-sixth of the world's population, India was expanding its civilian nuclear energy program to meet a growing appetite for energy, he said. "With this anticipated growth, it is important that India have access to the safest and most advanced technology."

As India had never promoted the proliferation of nuclear weapons and had proven to be a trusted member of the international community, it was illogical to refuse cooperation with India in the area of civilian nuclear energy, he wrote.

Similar innovative agreements would be required "to enlist Pakistan and Israel as partners in nuclear arms control and nonproliferation," he said.

First Published: Jun 14, 2006 20:44 IST