Mukherjee in Tehran, to seek support of IAEA, NSG (Second Lead, changing dateline)

July 29th, 2008 - 12:42 am ICT by IANS  

Tehran, July 28 (IANS) Days before the IAEA board meets in Vienna, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee arrived here on a two-day visit Monday to seek support of Non Aligned Movement (NAM) countries that are also members of the UN atomic watchdog and the 45-member NSG for the India-US nuclear deal. Mukherjee will meet his counterparts from Cyprus, Belarus and South Africa, which are members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and also meet the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ghana and Algeria, which are members of the IAEA.

He was received at Mehrabad airport by Iranian ministry officials. He will attend the 15th Ministerial Conference of the NAM.

Mukherjee’s visit will also focus on giving a political push to the $7.4 billion tri-nation gas pipeline, involving India, Pakistan and Iran.

Over the next two days, Mukherjee will meet Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Petroleum Minister Gholamhossein Nozari and discuss with them a range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

He is likely to meet Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and chief secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.

This is Mukherjee’s first visit abroad after the government won the trust vote nearly a week ago and decided to fast-track the India-US civil nuclear deal that has the potential to bring the two countries in closer economic and strategic embrace.

With the India-US nuclear deal heading on its final journey and elections slated to take place within a year, Mukherjee’s visit has acquired political overtones and will send the message across that India’s independent foreign policy cannot be manipulated by any foreign power.

The tri-nation pipeline that seeks to bring Iranian gas to India via Pakistan will figure high in his discussions with the Iranian leaders who are keen to resolve gas pricing and security issues with New Delhi so that the pipeline dream can inch closer to reality.

New Delhi is still not clear about the economic viability of the project and has serious concerns about the security of the pipeline that will pass through violence-prone tribal areas in Pakistan.

Mukherjee’s visit will be keenly watched in Washington, which wants to isolate Tehran over its suspected atomic weapons programme and resents New Delhi’s attempts to forge closer economic and energy ties with Iran through the gas pipeline project.

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