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IAEA approves deal for Indias nuclear inspection
India US Nuclear De 7005397
An activist of Student Federation of India, wears a mask during a protest rally against the proposed Nuclear deal, near American Consulate in Calcutta, India, Friday, Aug. 1, 2008. "123" is an agreement under Hyde Act which is a part of nuclear deal. - photo by Associated Press
    VIENNA, Austria — India and the U.S. moved a decisive step closer to implementing a landmark nuclear deal Friday following approval of an inspections plan by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
    The deal with Washington would reverse more than three decades of U.S. policy that has barred the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to India, a country that has not signed international nonproliferation accords and has tested nuclear weapons.
    To implement the deal, India must strike separate agreements with the IAEA and with the Nuclear Suppliers Group of countries that export nuclear material. It then goes to Congress in Washington for approval.
    Both countries hailed adoption of the IAEA safeguards agreement, which will effectively allow U.N. monitors access to a total of 14 Indian nuclear reactors by 2014. The IAEA currently inspects six of India’s reactors.
    ‘‘We believe this is important, not only for us and our bilateral relationship with India, but for rest of the world,’’ State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters in Washington.
    ‘‘This is an important day for India, and for our civil nuclear initiative for the resumption of India’s cooperation with our friends abroad,’’ Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh echoed.
    The IAEA’s 35-member board of governors approved the safeguards agreement by consensus, despite criticism that ambiguous wording could limit international oversight of India’s reactors, undermine the international nonproliferation treaty and possibly help supply India’s arms programs with fissile material.
    IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said the safeguards agreement is ‘‘good for India; it’s good for the world,’’ and expressed hope it would re-ignite a debate on nuclear disarmament.
    The U.S.-India deal is considered to be one of President Bush’s top foreign policy initiatives, and the administration is eager to tie up loose ends before leaving office.
    The White House urged the Nuclear Suppliers Group to act quickly, saying the administration expects to submit the deal to Congress later this year.
    ‘‘This important issue ... will welcome India into the nonproliferation mainstream and assist India in meeting its growing energy needs in an environmentally friendly way,’’ said Gordon Johndroe, Bush’s national security spokesman.
    Congress’ calendar, however, appears to make it difficult for the deal to be approved this year. Lawmakers are only scheduled to work for less than a month before year’s end because of the Nov. 4 elections, and much of their time will be devoted to measures necessary to keep the government running.
    Gregory L. Schulte, chief U.S. envoy to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, said the deal would strengthen nonproliferation.
    ‘‘Today’s agreement represents a major step forward to opening civil nuclear cooperation with India while strengthening the world’s nonproliferation regime,’’ he told reporters.
    Britain said the U.S.-India deal would make a ‘‘significant contribution to energy and climate security.’’
    But Austria said it had stood firm in its stance against nuclear energy and said it had joined other ‘‘like-minded’’ nations in requesting a legally binding list of nuclear facilities to be inspected. Diplomats who were in the meeting said Ireland and Switzerland also voiced concerns, among others.
    The Austrian Foreign Ministry also warned that the IAEA’s approval should not set a precedent for similar action by the Nuclear Supplier’s Group.
    The NSG — to which the U.S. belongs — bans exports to nuclear weapons states such as India and Pakistan that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and do not have full safeguard agreements allowing the IAEA to inspect their facilities.
    But the group appears willing to consider a waiver for India, in part because of lobbying from Washington.
    Anil Kakodkar, India’s Atomic Energy Commission chief, told reporters he hoped the group would grant New Dehli a ‘‘clean, unconditional exemption.’’
    Daryl Kimball, at the Washington-based Arms Control Association, urged the NSG to get India to sign a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons testing as well as the transfer of its uranium enrichment and plutonium processing technology, which could be used for making atomic bombs.
    While IAEA approval was largely expected, ‘‘the NSG is going to be much tougher,’’ Kimball said.
    Iran, which is under international pressure to scrap its own nuclear program because of suspicion it is aimed at producing weapons, was among those with reservations about the plan. Though Iran is not an IAEA board member, it requested time to speak, as did several other nonmembers.
    Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iran’s top representative to the U.N. agency, said in his speech that Tehran was seriously concerned about what he called a U.S. double standard. He said that would undermine the credibility, integrity and universality of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
    ‘‘There is serious concern that the United States has taken this step with the intention to create precedence and pave the way for Israel to continue its clandestine weapon activities’’ without putting its atomic facilities under U.N. monitoring.
    Israel, which has not signed nonproliferation accords, neither confirms nor denies it has atomic weapons.
    India first conducted a nuclear test explosion 34 years ago after it broke out of its foreign-supplied civilian program to develop atomic arms.
    Pakistan, its neighboring nuclear rival and opponent in three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, was vocal in its opposition to the safeguards deal in the weeks leading up to its consideration, but did not oppose the consensus approval.
    Associated Press writers Foster Klug and Jennifer Loven in Washington and Ashok Sharma in Colombo, Sri Lanka, contributed to this report.

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