45-nation group OKs landmark US-India nuke deal Print article
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2008-09-06 13:43:02 -
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Nations that supply nuclear material and technology overcame fierce obstacles Saturday and approved a landmark U.S. plan to engage in atomic trade with India _ a deal that reverses more than three decades of American policy.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group, which governs the legal world trade in nuclear components and know-how,
signed off on the deal after three days of contentious talks and some concessions to countries fearful it could set a dangerous precedent.
«Today we have reached a landmark decision to allow for civilian nuclear trade with India,» John Rood, acting U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control issues, told reporters.
«This is a historical moment for the NSG, for India and for India's relations with the rest of the world,» he said.
Austria, one of the holdouts along with Ireland and New Zealand, said it lifted its objections after India pledged on Friday not to touch off a new nuclear arms race or share sensitive nuclear technology with other countries.
In a statement, the Austrian government called that pledge «decisive,» and Rood said it «played a major role» in removing obstacles to an agreement.
India has tested atomic weapons and refused to sign international nonproliferation treaties.
The U.S. needed approval from the nuclear group, which governs the legal trade in nuclear components and technology, and from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which signed off on the deal last month.
«We're very pleased that we were able to reach a compromise that everyone could live with,» said the chief British envoy, Simon Smith.
But the plan still needs backing from U.S. Congress, and the Bush administration must now race to get approval before lawmakers recess for the rest of the year to devote time to their re-election campaigns.
Before the 45-nation nuclear group approved the deal, U.S. officials had contended that selling peaceful nuclear technology to India would bring the country's atomic program under closer scrutiny and boost _ not undermine _ international nonproliferation efforts.
Rood said it would help meet India's growing energy needs while helping the developing country _ a major polluter _ cut back on harmful emissions that experts warn are contributing to global warming.
The group was founded as a direct result of India's 1974 atomic test blasts. India tested nuclear weapons most recently in 1998, and opponents have expressed concerns that bending the rules to allow nuclear trade with New Delhi undermines the global effort to discourage the production of weapons of mass destruction.
Officials said Saturday's breakthrough came after U.S. President George W. Bush personally intervened to lobby allies at the nuclear group to approve the trade waiver.
«The U.S. government engaged in an intense diplomatic effort,» Rood said.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, accused the U.S. delegation of resorting to «some nasty threats, misinformation about positions and intimidation to try to wear down» the three holdout countries. U.S. officials had no immediate comment.
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