Many NSG members ’satisfied’ with India’s briefing (Lead)

August 21st, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Vienna, Aug 21 (IANS) The 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group that began its deliberations here Thursday to decide whether its existing rules may be amended to facilitate nuclear commerce with India is reportedly trying to avoid a separate meeting in September.Sources told the IANS that serious efforts are being made so that the NSG can come out with a final decision by this weekend.

All decisions in the NSG are taken by consensus and India hopes to get the support of all the 45 members for a waiver without any additional “conditionalities”.

If that happens, it will be beneficial for India. It can then begin nuclear commerce with the NSG members on civil nuclear energy and also have sufficient time to place the draft of the Indo-US nuclear agreement before the American Congress for a final approval by September.

There is still a possibility that the NSG members may not be able to take a final decision after their two-day meeting in Vienna ends Friday. A meeting of the 45 members in early September will then be held to decide whether India should be given the proposed waiver to trade in civil nuclear energy with the NSG.

But that will delay the process of getting an early approval of the US Congress, as it will break for the forthcoming American presidential elections after Sep 26.

The meeting of the NSG in the building of Japan’s permanent mission here Thursday morning began 30 minutes later than scheduled.

A little later, the NSG members also attended a briefing by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon at the International Atomic Energy headquarters on how lifting the existing curbs will not only help India but also the NSG and strengthen the international non-proliferation regime.

The six-member Indian delegation also included the prime minister’s Special Envoy Shyam Saran and officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the department of atomic energy.

Menon’s briefing to the NSG members lasted only 30 minutes. But when the doors of ‘board room five’ on the fourth floor of the IAEA headquarters opened, the atmosphere was one of cordiality and laughter.

Even as members of the NSG started coming out of the room, the Indian delegation was seen engaged in discussions with some of the members of the group. Menon and his colleagues were the last to leave the room, but refused to make any comments about the deliberations.

“What happened behind closed doors was confidential,” Menon told journalists with a promise that he will brief them after the NSG’s two-day meeting ends Friday evening.

Though none of the NSG members were willing to talk about the Indian briefing, a senior German official described the mood inside as ” very, very positive” and expressed satisfaction at what Menon said.

He said some questions have been raised by the NSG members, but did not want to identify the countries that sought the clarifications.

“The questions were constructive and technical but they were not personal,” the German official added.

Abud Samad Minty of South Africa, who played a very positive role in getting the support of the IAEA board of governors support to the Indian safeguards agreement early this month, was cautious when asked whether he will continue to play a similar role at the NSG.

“That was the IAEA safeguards agreement and this is the NSG,” he said.

But he gave an indication that the NSG members may try to come to a decision on the proposed Indian waiver after Friday’s meeting when he said, “Most members are looking forward to return home after tomorrow’s meeting and so am I.”

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