US ambassador links India's civil nuclear initiative to Iran vote

Thursday, January 26, 2006

President Bush with India's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, during their meeting in the Oval Office in July 2005

The United States Ambassador to India, David Mulford, has reportedly hinted that the U.S. civil nuclear energy pact with India may face problems getting approved by Congress if India refused to vote against Iran at the upcoming meeting of the United Nations nuclear watchdog committee.

The nuclear pact was made after a July 2005 policy shift by U.S. President George W. Bush that offered cooperation in India's development of civilian atomic power industry in exchange for its support of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) nonproliferation standards.

The U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack stated at a Wednesday briefing that, "The ambassador was expressing his personal opinion about what the potential political outcome might be. He was giving his personal assessment of how the Congress might react to such an action by India." McCormack added that, "We certainly would encourage and hope that they (India) vote for referral this time around."

The IAEA is scheduled to meet February 2 to discuss Iran's referral to the U.N. Security Council over its resumption of uranium enrichment. The U.S. claims that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, a claim that Tehran denies.

India's foreign ministry rejected any attempt to tie its stance on Iran to the deal with the U.S. on acquiring nuclear know-how.

India has previously supported the IAEA's declaration in September of 2005 that Iran had failed to comply with its international obligations.

The U.S. also opposes the negotiations, begun in 1994, on a proposed gas pipeline between India and Iran which is intended to provide India with increased energy capacities.