Iran Nuclear NewsUS lawmaker cautions India on Iran nuclear stance

US lawmaker cautions India on Iran nuclear stance

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Reuters: India could jeopardize a landmark nuclear cooperation deal with the United States if it sides with nonaligned states in backing Iran’s atomic ambitions, a leading lawmaker warned on Wednesday. By Carol Giacomo, Diplomatic Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – India could jeopardize a landmark nuclear cooperation deal with the United States if it sides with nonaligned states in backing Iran’s atomic ambitions, a leading lawmaker warned on Wednesday.

Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos of California said the controversial India deal was on track to be voted on by the U.S. Congress next month, but approval would be at risk if leaders in New Delhi did not “act responsibly.”

The agreement, granting nuclear-armed India access to U.S. nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in 30 years, has raised objections from critics in Washington and New Delhi who argue their side got too little and the other side, too much.

After a period in which critics had the momentum, Lantos said he and the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde of Illinois, concluded work on a bipartisan bill approving the deal that also has the Bush administration’s backing.

Lantos is the panel’s senior Democrat.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders are still working on their version, but that panel is also expected to vote next week.

Lantos said the House committee would vote on his and Hyde’s bill next Tuesday with action by the full House in July.

But he said India had risked the chances of a positive vote with a recent decision to endorse a statement by the 114-member Non-aligned Movement of mainly developing states that is “diametrically opposed” to the position on Iran taken by the United States and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Russia, China, Britain and France — plus Germany.

The major powers have offered to negotiate with Iran on a package of incentives only if it agrees to halt weapons-related nuclear enrichment activities. Iran, which insists it is pursuing nuclear energy to meet civilian needs, not weapons, has made some positive noises but given no final reply.

The NAM, with India’s concurrence, recently ignored U.S. calls to endorse the major powers’ June 6 offer and emphasized the right of all states “without any discrimination” to nuclear research and energy production.

“This is a very negative phenomenon and I honestly hope there will be a great deal of care taken by our Indian friends if they want this (nuclear cooperation agreement) to get through Congress and become reality,” Lantos told reporters.

It is difficult to understand what other NAM states had in common with “the great democratic state of India in 2006,” he said.

The United States has identified Iran as the primary non-proliferation threat and India’s position on this issue is seen as a major test of New Delhi’s reliability as a partner in the fight against weapons of mass destruction.

Lantos predicted attempts will be made to amend his legislation and he vowed to fight proposals considered unacceptable to New Delhi that would be “deal breakers.”

But he also said there could also be “deal breakers” on the Indian side and one would be a “blanket endorsement of the Non-aligned Movement’s statements concerning Iran.”

Under the agreement, India — once condemned because it developed nuclear weapons in contravention of international standards — has promised to accept certain non-proliferation rules, including opening civilian nuclear facilities to U.N. monitors.

In the United States, Congress must approve the deal. The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which governs nuclear trade, also must act but is waiting for Congress to go first.

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