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We will go to IAEA very soon: Manmohan

K. Venugopal

“Once we decide, the U.S. will have to fulfil its promises”

Sapporo (JAPAN): Hinting that the government was ready to take the next step on the nuclear deal, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that he expects to rally international support from countries, including China and Australia, when he meets their leaders separately on the margins of the G8 summit at Toyako on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido over the next two days.

“Once we take the decision to go to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for an agreement, the United States will have to fulfil its promises. There is the July 2005 statement in which the U.S. has publicly stated they will help us to get through the IAEA and the NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group). I hope they will do their work,” he said.

While he declined to indicate a timeline for taking the agreement to the IAEA — he said he could not reveal that while he was on a foreign trip — he noted the government “will, very soon.”

Dr. Singh flew into Sapporo on Monday evening after an eight and a half hour flight from New Delhi, seeming quite pleased with the way his government had been able to prise out enough domestic political support for the deal over the past week. “I don’t foresee an election before time,” he said confidently in response to a question whether he anticipated they would be held any earlier than April next year.

He seemed equally hopeful of winning international approval for the nuclear deal.

The Prime Minister will, in fact, be working overtime on Wednesday starting at 5 a.m. to drive two hours and 20 minutes from his Sapporo hotel to meet U.S. President George Bush at the G8 summit hotel at Toyako. He will later meet leaders of Russia, China, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Korea and Indonesia, countries which are either on the board of the IAEA or members of the influential NSG, whose approval India needs before it can hope for international nuclear cooperation.

It is not clear how many members of the NSG are still not persuaded to make an exception for India. International commerce in nuclear supplies has been limited so far to countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. But Dr. Singh appeared confident of securing their approval.

He said he would reinforce efforts to impress upon the global leaders about the civil nuclear deal that goes before the IAEA and the NSG. “We obviously seek the support of the world community in both these fora,” he said. “Fortunately, we have the support of the major powers, the U.S., Russia, France and Britain.”

Answering a question specifically on China, he said, “I have discussed it with the Chinese leaders on more than one occasion. I cannot say that I have a firm assurance but I have a strong feeling that when the matter comes before the relevant fora, China will not be a problem.”

Sources indicated that the government may wait for another meeting of the UPA-Left coordination group before heading to the IAEA.

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