Draft safeguards agreement under consideration by board of governors: IAEA

July 10th, 2008 - 7:29 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Vienna, July 10 (IANS) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced here Wednesday that the draft of its agreement with the Indian government for the application of safeguards to India’s civilian nuclear facilities is now under review by IAEA’s 35-member board of governors. IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming said in a statement here that on the request of the government of India the draft of the agreement was circulated to the IAEA board members.

She added that the chairman of the Board is consulting with board members to agree on a date for a board meeting to consider the agreement.

Fleming also said that the text of the draft agreement is not public and that IAEA officials would not be giving interviews at this time.

During informal talks with IAEA officials it was earlier learnt that the board of governors would meet here July 28.

The draft agreement needs to be approved by the IAEA board of governors before it is tabled before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which is an informal club of 45 nations that keeps an eye on activities related to nuclear commerce around the world in order to prevent proliferation.

The US has been urging India to advance the trade agreement ever since it was signed three years ago between the two countries.

However opposition to the deal within India prevented Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from moving ahead. Singh revived the deal a few days ago after he dumped his former left allies who had opposed the nuclear deal with the US from the start.

The Samajwadi Party has stepped in to support Singh’s government in favour of the nuclear deal.

Manmohan Singh said earlier that he was confident of having enough support for his government in any show of strength in Parliament.

The US Congress that has already exempted India from most US nuclear non-proliferation restrictions. Now it waits to approve the India-US nuclear deal before the end of the year while George W. Bush is still in office.

The rush is to get the deal approved by a Congress that is still friendly to the deal before its composition changes after the November presidential elections.

With India having rolled the ball today by formally seeking approval from the IAEA over the monitoring of its civilian nuclear facilities, the deal may just make it to the US Congress before a new government takes over in Washington.

After the approval of the IAEA, the NSG would consider exempting India from the ban that the group imposes on the sale of nuclear material to nations outside the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) provisions.

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