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. US raises concerns with India over Iranian nuclear issue
WASHINGTON (AFP) Sep 09, 2005
The United States has raised concerns with India about its reported opposition to refer Iran to the UN Security Council over Tehran's controversial nuclear program, the State Department said Thursday.

"We have registered our concerns with the Indian government of course," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told a congressional hearing where legislators threatened to call for a review of Washington's landmark civil nuclear cooperation pact with New Delhi.

Burns said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would also raise the issue in her meetings with her Indian counterpart Natwar Singh and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a UN Summit next week.

Natwar Singh reportedly said at a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this week that New Delhi was opposed to referring Tehran to the UN Security Council, following US accusations that it was secretly trying to build nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program.

US and European Union officials have warned they will push for Iran's nuclear case to be sent to the Security Council -- which could impose sanctions -- if Tehran does not halt all nuclear fuel work and resume negotiations with the European Union.

Iran denies harbouring secret plans to make nuclear bombs and says it has no intention of freezing uranium conversion at its Isfahan plant -- where UN seals were broken and work resumed last month.

At the hearing Thursday, Democratic Representative Tom Lantos cited news reports quoting Singh as lamenting to the Iranian leader about "the inclination to infuse injustice in international relations" and that "India's relations with Iran is not predicated on positions and views attributed to some governments."

Lantos then told Burns that Singh was clearly accusing the United States of practising injustice, adding that "this is sickening, literally sickening, which we don't accept from the Indian foreign minister."

He said if New Delhi did not support Washington's bid to refer Iran to the Security Council, the Bush administration should freeze its agreement to expand nuclear cooperation with India.

The nuclear pact, which could only be implemented after Congress amended certain US laws, is part of a bold strategic partnership announced by US President George W. Bush after talks with prime minister Singh in July.

"This pattern of dealing with us will not be productive for India and they have to be told in plain English that this great new opening which we support is predicated on reciprocity.

"If they persist in this, this great dream of a new relationship will go down the tubes," warned the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives international relations committee, which held Thursday's hearing.

Iran ended a freeze on its uranium conversion activities in retaliation to demands from Britain, France and Germany -- also known as the EU-3 -- that it scrap the program in exchange for a package of incentives.

The European bloc had offered Iran trade and other benefits in exchange for pledges on its nuclear plans, after striking an accord with Tehran in Paris last November. Those talks broke down last month.

Burns said that when Washington openly backed the EU's negotiations with Iran for the first time in March, it did that on the basis of one key principle -- "that we are committed to see Iran does not become a nuclear state.

"It is very important for India, China, Russia, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil and other leading countries of the world to join with the US and EU to see that this does not happen," he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog, is due to hold a board meeting on September 19 and the Americans and the Europeans are trying to reach a broad consensus for reporting the Iranian case to the Security Council, but Russian and Chinese backing is in doubt.

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