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US lobbies for nuclear trade with India

A meet ahead of NSG's Rio session will mull US plea but, one diplomat said, "It is unlikely to get on the agenda".
None | By Agence France-Presse, Vienna
PUBLISHED ON MAR 24, 2006 03:28 AM IST

The United States lobbied on Thursday for allowing nuclear trade with India but failed to get a key international group to take up the matter, diplomats said.

They said a consultative meeting in Vienna of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group had held off from putting the issue of India's nuclear deal on the agenda of its plenary session, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in May.

A consultative meeting ahead of the Rio session will consider the US request but, one diplomat said, "it is unlikely to get on the agenda".

Washington is pressing for the international body to discuss the conditions set out in a landmark nuclear deal struck earlier this month between the United States and India.

On a visit to New Delhi, President George W Bush agreed to give India access to nuclear technology in exchange for it separating its civil and military atomic programs and placing a majority of its reactors under international inspection.

The US-Indian deal still must be ratified by the US Congress and the NSG, which oversees trade in atomic fuel and technology.

Washington is seeking for the Nuclear Suppliers Group to discuss exempting India from nuclear export controls.

Acting assistant secretary of state for Stephen Rademaker, who is head of the Bureau of International Security and Non-proliferation, said: "We were not seeking a decision at this meeting (in Vienna).

"The purpose of this meeting was to explain our vision of civil nuclear cooperation with India, to answer questions that other delegations had about our vision."

Another US assistant secretary of state, Richard Boucher, said discussions had so far been "very balanced".

"Those who raised a lot of questions also recognized the non-proliferation benefits of bringing India closer to the system and some of the steps that India was taking."

A senior US official said that the United States would honour NSG rules. "We abide by our international obligations. We have obligations to the NSG," the official said.

India has developed atomic weapons but not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) designed to stop the spread of such arms.

The US-India deal faces domestic opposition in both countries with some Indians upset by slights to their sovereignty and a number of US lawmakers saying it sets a bad precedent.

The NSG was founded in 1974 precisely to keep nuclear technology that was transferred for peaceful purposes from being directed towards weapons development by states like India, which developed its atomic weapons after the NPT came into effect in 1970.

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