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India to approach IAEA very soon: Prime Minister

PM's announcement came amid reports that the board of the international nuclear watchdog will meet on July 28 to approve the safeguards agreement for the controversial N-deal.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Onboard Pm's Aircraft
UPDATED ON JUL 07, 2008 07:30 PM IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday announced that India will "very soon" approach the IAEA for a safeguards agreement for the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal where the "process will move very fast".

The prime minister's statement to journalists on board the aircraft carrying him to Sapporo in Japan for the G8 Summit comes amid reports from Vienna, the IAEA headquarters, that the Board of the international nuclear watchdog will meet on July 28 to approve the safeguards agreement.

He said assurances have been given that once India goes to the IAEA, the process will move very fast.

A relaxed and confident Singh made it clear that government was not afraid of facing Parliament if the Left parties withdraw support.

Having a dig at Leader of Opposition LK Advani, Singh said the BJP leader "need not give any advice" on the issue.

Singh, who will be meeting US President George W Bush on the sidelines of the summit on July nine, said he would also be holding parleys with other world leaders and seek their support for the nuclear deal at the IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group

Singh still sounded conciliatory about the Left parties, who have threatened to withdraw support to his government the moment it takes the next step on the deal, that they were "patriots" and would like to find a way out which would address their concerns and also see the deal through.

He asserted that the deal was in national interest and the government would not compromise India"s foreign policy or its strategic programme.

"I have been telling him(George W Bush) and I have always told him that I am committed to the civil nuclear cooperation agreement. That it has been my effort and it will always be my effort to push the agreement and that our government stands committed," Singh said.

"As for the precise date I wouldn't like to say while I am abroad. But we will take a decision very soon."

Initially he was reluctant to say when the government would approach the IAEA.

But when pressed for a specific time-frame and asked how soon, he replied, " well I can't tell you right now. But you will hear about it when we take such a decision."

Earlier, the prime minister was replying to a question as to what he would tell President Bush when he meets him in Japan and when the government would approach the IAEA.

To a question about statement emanating from the US that time was running out for the deal, Singh said that as for the time table honestly he could not anticipate. "We have been assured that once we take the decision to go to the IAEA, the proces will move pretty fast", he said.

Asked about Advani's statement that the government should seek a vote of confidence in Lok Sabha the moment the Left parties withdraw support, the prime minister shot back "we will cross that bridge when reach there. We are not afraid of facing Parliament. We will abide by all parliamentary norms that should apply in a great democracy that India is. Mr Advani need not give any advice to us".

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