NSG draft may be altered to accomodate members’ concerns (Second Lead)

September 4th, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Vienna, Sep 4 (IANS) The wording of the US-sponsored draft being discussed by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) here Thursday is likely to be altered to make it more acceptable to the 45-member grouping and ensure that they all agree to a waiver to allow nuclear commerce with India.”The US has pledged to revise the draft and serious attempts are being made in that direction,” a diplomat attending the two-day meeting said.

The NSG that controls the world’s nuclear fuel and technology supply began its meeting here Thursday to decide whether its existing ban should be lifted to allow trade with a country like India that is not a signatory to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India has made it clear that it wants a “clean waiver” and will not accept any “conditionalities” that interfere with its sovereign rights.

William Burns, US under secretary of state for political affairs who was specially flown in to Vienna by the Bush administration for the occasion, also confirmed that attempts were on to accommodate concerns of NSG members.

“While a number of representatives here have raised important questions that need to be addressed, the discussion have been constructive and really aimed at reaching an early consensus,” Burns said while addressing a press conference within two hours of the NSG meeting.

The NSG members broke their first session after three hours and went into an extended lunch break that lasted nearly four hours.

The long break was used for consultations with the Indian delegation that included Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and the prime minister’s special representative Shyam Saran to see whether the new language in the draft was acceptable to them.

But indications suggest that it will be more of a tweaking with the language in the draft rather than preparing yet another document.

“The truth is that before us we have a historic opportunity to end more than three decades of India’s isolation from the nuclear regime and that opportunity warrants the extraordinary efforts we are making,” Burns told reporters.

“The steps we are considering for India will strengthen non-proliferation and help to welcome one of the world’s largest economies and the world’s largest democracy more fully into the global fold,” Burns, who is Washington’s pointsman on the India-US nuclear deal, said.

“I believe we are making steady progress in this process and that we will continue to make progress,” Burns added.

Six countries in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group that were opposed to a “clean waiver” for India said they were going to play a “constructive role” in the meeting.

“Austria, along with like-minded countries is going into the meeting in a constructive spirit to work jointly together,” a senior Austrian diplomat told IANS minutes before the meeting began.

Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland are the six countries that were opposed to a “clean waiver” that India has been seeking from the NSG.

The six countries were keen to bring in provisions to halt all commerce with India if it conducted another nuclear test.

India, which conducted a series of tests in May 1998, has declared a voluntary moratorium on future tests since. But it has not yet signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that prevents countries from conducting tests in future.

All decisions in the 45-member NSG are taken by consensus and therefore support of every single country who are part of the cartel is important.

India is not a member of the NSG and it is largely dependent on the US, France, Russia and Britain to argue its case at the NSG.

The Austrian diplomat said: “The package on the table (the new draft prepared by the US) needs to be worked out jointly by NSG members before it is ready to contribute to international security concerns.”

Speaking on behalf of the “other like-minded countries” the diplomat said: “Both the US and India were playing a ‘constructive role’ to bring Indian into the nuclear market and we are ready to play our part.”

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