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Indian PM Warns Against Sensitive Provisions In US Nuclear Deal
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush. Photo courtesy AFP
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush. Photo courtesy AFP
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Dec 06, 2006
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday cautioned against US lawmakers including "problematic" provisions in final US legislation giving India access to civilian nuclear technology. He highlighted the concern in a telephone conversation with Bill Frist, the Republican leader in the US Senate, as Congress began drafting the legislation reconciling separate bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Some of the provisions proposed for the combined bill, expected to be voted on by Congress this week, go against the spirit of a landmark nuclear agreement reached between Singh and US President George W. Bush in July last year, Indian officials have complained.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also campaigned for the removal of the sensitive provisions, including one calling for New Delhi's support to end Iran's sensitive nuclear program and for restrictions on US nuclear technology transferred to India.

But Tom Lantos, the incoming Democratic head of the powerful international relations panel of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday threw his weight behind calls for a provision for India to check Iran's nuclear program.

Lantos supported the requirement in legislation of a "determination by the (US) President that India is fully and actively participating" in "efforts to dissuade, sanction and contain Iran for its nuclear program."

Rice had argued that such a stipulation would be viewed by India as an "additional condition."

"I strongly believed that obtaining such an assessment of India's policy in this regard is a critical piece of information to aid our deliberations when we consider an actual agreement for civil nuclear cooperation with India, as required" by the final legislation," Lantos said.

But he pointed out that he strongly supported the nuclear deal.

Senate leader Frist said he telephoned Singh Tuesday to assure him that enacting the final legislation on the nuclear deal was a "top" priority by Congress this week before it adjourned for the year.

Singh "stressed that there are a number of provisions in the House and Senate-passed bills that are problematic for the Indian government because they depart from the understanding reached with President Bush on this issue," Frist said.

"We discussed several of these provisions, and I assured him that the conferees are well aware of the Indian government's concerns," he said.

But a number of lawmakers have "strongly" insisted including the sensitive requirements in the final legislation.

"Apparently, the Bush administration has entered the nuclear twilight zone," said Democratic lawmaker Edward Markey.

"It can go to war in Iraq to disarm imaginary WMD (weapons of mass destruction), but then turns to give a huge nuclear gift to India and specifically tells Congress not to ask India to stand up to Iran's WMD programs," he said. "Whose foreign policy is the administration promoting?"

Under the bilateral deal, India, a non-signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), will be given access to civilian nuclear technology in return for placing its atomic reactors under global safeguards.

The agreement was seen as controversial because the US Congress had to create a rare exception for India from some of the requirements of the US Atomic Energy Act, which currently prohibits nuclear sales to non-NPT signatories.

In addition, US weapons experts warned that forging such an agreement with non-NPT member India would not only make it harder to enforce rules against nuclear renegades Iran and North Korea, but also set a dangerous precedent for other countries with nuclear ambitions.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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