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Mulford sorry over nuclear comment

The US envoy to India expressed regret over his comments that a nuclear deal between Washington and New Delhi may stall.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 12:02 IST

The US envoy to India on Thursday expressed regret over his comments that a nuclear deal between Washington and New Delhi may stall unless India votes against Iran next month at the UN atomic energy watchdog.

Ambassador David Mulford's statement came a day after he told a news agency that if India decided not to vote against Iran, "the effect on members of the US Congress with regard to the civil nuclear initiative will be devastating."

The remarks upset New Delhi which rejected attempts to link the vote to the landmark India-US nuclear cooperation pact.

Mulford was called in by the Indian foreign secretary on Thursday and told that his remarks were "inappropriate and not conducive to building a strong partnership" between the two countries, an Indian foreign ministry statement said.

"The ambassador expressed his sincere regrets, saying that his remarks had been taken out of context," the statement said. "It was not at all his intention to question India's right to take decisions on various issues on the basis of its own national interests."

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to meet on February 2 to discuss whether to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over a nuclear programme the West says is aimed at developing weapons, which Tehran denies.

US President George W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed in July an accord on civil nuclear energy that would reverse a nearly 30-year-old ban on atomic cooperation with New Delhi, which has tested nuclear arms.

The deal has yet to be fully worked out, especially the key requirement of a separation plan for India's civil and military nuclear facilities, and must then pass a final test in the US Congress and be agreed by the 44-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

India surprised its historic ally Iran in September by siding with the West when the IAEA declared Iran had failed to comply with its international obligations.

The diplomatic turnaround triggered domestic uproar with communist allies of Singh's government accusing it of selling out to the United States.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 12:02 IST