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IAEA board meeting for India pact on August 1

The agency is expected to approve the safeguards agreement, a draft of which India already has circulated among the 35 nations on the agency's board. 8 days to go...
By George Jahn | AP, Vienna, Austria
UPDATED ON JUL 15, 2008 11:30 AM IST

Nations setting policy for the International Atomic Agency will meet next month to vote on a deal that would allow UN nuclear monitors to inspect some of India's nuclear facilities, the IAEA said.

IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said on Monday that the meeting would be held August 1. The agency is expected to approve the so-called safeguards agreement, a draft of which India already has circulated among the 35 nations on the agency's board. The board's approval would open the way for India to do business with 45 nations that export coveted nuclear fuel and technology. It is just one of several recent moves by India demonstrating its eagerness to gain access to foreign-sourced nuclear fuel and technology as it scrambles to find enough uranium to supply both its power sector and its nuclear weapons facilities.

On Friday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government said it would hold a parliamentary confidence vote within a week to determine the future of a controversial nuclear deal with the United States.

Singh's government would have to put off the US deal and face early elections if the confidence vote is defeated. His five-year term ends in May.

If ratified, the agreement would reverse three decades of US policy by allowing the sale of atomic fuel and technology to India, which has not signed international nonproliferation accords but has tested nuclear weapons. India, in exchange, would open most of its civilian reactors to international inspections.

But the IAEA board must first approve the safeguards agreement, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, to which the US belongs, must agree to do business with New Delhi before US Congress can sign off on the Washington-New Delhi agreement.

The US has hailed Indian pledges to open up part of its civilian nuclear program to international perusal as a commitment by New Delhi to move closer toward nonproliferation principles. Still, critics who have seen the draft safeguards agreement between New Delhi and the IAEA say it contains loopholes and does not specifically list the facilities to be put under agency supervision, even though New Delhi has named them in a separate paper drawn up two years ago.

India first conducted a nuclear test 24 years ago as it broke out of its foreign-supplied civilian program to develop atomic arms. Nuclear Suppliers Group states have restricted nuclear trade since 1992 with states that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty or don't have comprehensive safeguards.

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