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India ticks off Mulford over N-gaffe

That Mulford was called to South Block on R-Day shows the level of displeasure...

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 19:47 IST

Stung by threats of a linkage between how India votes on the Iran issue and the Indo- US civil nuclear deal, foreign secretary Shyam Saran on Thursday summoned US ambassador David Mulford to tell him off about his "inappropriate" remarks to a news agency. Mulford regretted his remarks, saying they had been "taken out of context".

The summons came barely a week before the extraordinary meeting of the IAEA's board of governors in Vienna (on February 2) to decide whether or not to refer Iran's nuclear issue to the UN Security Council.

Mulford had on Wednesday linked India's likely vote at the IAEA meet to the outcome of the Indo-US civilian nuclear pact, saying New Delhi not voting for the resolution would have a "devastating" outcome on the July 18 agreement. It is highly unusual for the US envoy to be summoned to South Block. That Saran called him on Republic Day ­ a holiday—barely weeks ahead of an official visit by the US President, indicates the level of official displeasure.

MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said Saran "called in the US ambassador this afternoon to convey to him that the remarks made by him... were not conducive to building a strong partnership between our two independent democracies." The statement added that "concerning the proposed India- US nuclear agreement, the foreign secretary reaffirmed India's stand that both countries needed to work in the spirit of the July 18 joint statement and in strict conformity with the reciprocal commitments contained therein".

Sarna said the foreign secretary also told Mulford that any "possible resolution on the Iran issue would be determined by India's own judgement of the merits of the case".

Meanwhile, the US has sought to distance itself from Mulford's remarks, saying they were a "personal assessment" on what might happen in US Congress if India didn't vote against Iran. It delinked the Indo-US nuke deal and Iran, saying it dealt with them as separate issues. It also conceded that ultimately, it was for New Delhi to decide its stand.

First Published: Jan 28, 2006 19:47 IST