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US wants a win-win nuclear deal with India

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
Last updated on: February 07, 2006 16:21 IST
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Describing the Indo-US civil nuclear deal as 'a very important arrangement for the future', the United States has said it was working with India to make it a win-win deal for both countries.

A senior official also said the US was 'encouraged' by India and other countries who voted to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear programme, but pointed out that New Delhi voted 'of its own free choice'.

"In terms of the status of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with India, I think both governments continue to believe that this is a very important arrangement for the future. We have made some progress, but there's more that needs to be made," said Robert Joseph, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security at the Washington Foreign Press Center on Monday.

He added, "We're continuing to work with the Indian government to make this a win-win for both countries."

On India's vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency in favour of reporting Iran to the UNSC, Joseph said - "We, of course, are encouraged by the votes of all of those countries who decided that it was in their interest and in the interest of the international community to move this to the next level of diplomacy, to move the Iran issue to the Security Council. This was a vote that India made of its own free choice."

Asked if the civil nuclear deal may be concluded prior to President George W Bush's India trip, he said, "I don't have clarity in my crystal ball, but my sense is we're making progress. The visit will be very important. But these issues take time to resolve. These are complex issues and we'll see where we are when the President visits."

Joseph refused to go into what led New Delhi to vote for the Iran sesolution in Vienna last Saturday, saying, "I certainly can't elaborate in terms of the internal dynamics that led the Indian government to vote the way that it did."

"India, of course, cast a positive vote in September. That was a resolution that found Iran to be in formal noncompliance with its safeguard obligations. And this time India joined the large majority of other states on the board to send this matter to the Security Council," he said.

He also joined the chorus of US administration and Capitol Hill that 'no options are off the table' when it comes to dealing with Iran, even while stressing that Washington seeks to exhaust all diplomatic options.

"We cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran," he said, rejecting the notion that Tehran's nuclear weapons capability was either about its security or for peaceful purposes.

Asked about the 'price' countries like India will have to pay, following the Iran vote, in terms of oil and natural gas supplies, he said, "I believe that standing up to Iran is a sign of being in the nonproliferation mainstream and I think the size of the majority that we saw voting on this issue on Saturday is an indication of that."

"In terms of paying a price, I'm not sure of how one calculates that because there are, of course, significant prices that one would have to pay if Iran did acquire a nuclear weapons capability," he said. "And in fact, the price might be much higher under those circumstances in the future than the price for standing up to Iran and insisting that it reverse course on its nuclear programme," he said.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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