WASHINGTON: The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, has urged the US Congress to endorse the legislation to allow India obtain American nuclear technology as well as power plant equipment.
In a rare and most direct appeal to US Congressmen and Senators on Wednesday, ElBaradei said the civilian nuclear agreement between India and the US lawmakers on behalf of an agreement initiated by President George W Bush would for the first time give India access to nuclear technology from the US and other nations.
"To me, this is a win-win agreement, and I hope it will go through Congress," said ElBaradei soon after meeting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department.
In her remarks, Rice said, "We've also talked about the US-India deal and Dr ElBaradei has been very supportive -- not because he is trying to intervene in US-Indian relations, but as we have talked about it because we need to broaden our concept of non-proliferation regime in order to deal with anomalies like the Indian situation. And then finally, of course, we've talked about Iran and how to bring into being compliance with the Board of Governors resolution that was passed and also the presidential statement that was passed in the Security Council that asks Iran to rapidly comply with the international community's demands."
The US-India nuclear accord, announced by President Bush during his visit to India earlier this year would lift a 30-year-old ban on keeping India out of the non-proliferation regime.
To become effective, the deal has to be endorsed by the US Congress where the legislation proposed by the Bush administration is pending with Democrats stalling the process by saying that the US Congress could act faster if India's talks with the IAEA were speeded up and Congress had an idea about the broad contours of the India-IAEA safeguards agreement. US arms control hawks also point to this alleged delay in talks with the IAEA as evidence of Indian perfidy.
However, the administration officials argued that the deal would benefit both countries as India is the world’s most populous democracy, an ally against terrorism and it could open up a huge commerce market for US companies.
Besides being approved by the US Congress, the deal has to be endorsed by consensus in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Negotiations on this are being debated in London, Washington, New Delhi and Brazil.
The major benefits outlined by the Bush administration were that the nuke deal was a net gain for non-proliferation as India would open its civilian nuclear programme to IAEA inspection and it would also allow US firms to invest in India’s nuclear programme.
They had also said that American companies would gain from development of India’s nuclear power as it needed nuclear power reactors.
Regarding Iran, Secretary Rice acknowledged that a closed door meeting of the so-called P-Five Plus One grouping in London ended without an agreement and she discussed the results of the London meeting at a joint press appearance with Mohamed el Baradei.
"We did not expect that they were going to finalise all matters, and I think they are still working on some matters," said Rice.
However, neither Rice nor her key aides were specific about the problem issues in the talks.
IAEA chief was understood to support a direct US nuclear dialogue with Iran instead of the Bush administration's current approach of working through Britain, France and Germany.
However, in the appearance with Rice, ElBaradei said the format of talks was for the United States to decide, and that his role was as an honest broker in pursuit of a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear crisis.