NSG meet fails to reach consensus, ‘narrowing of differences’, says Menon (Night Lead)

August 23rd, 2008 - 3:01 am ICT by IANS  

Vienna, Aug 23 (IANS) The two-day meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group ended here Friday with the 45 members failing to reach a consensus to lift the ban that will allow nuclear commerce with India even though Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said there has been a “narrowing of differences” among the members.The NSG will meet again on Sep 4 and 5 to resolve their differences and reach a consensus.

Though most members in the NSG are for lifting the ban, some are keen that a provision be included in the draft that if India conducts any more tests the commerce between the two sides will be stopped.

The foreign secretary told reporters after the NSG meeting ended that no member had said that they were against giving India a special exemption.

“There has been a narrowing down of differences between the various counties. It is quite a remarkable feat that 45 different sovereign nations should decide to have one point of view over any issue,” Menon said.

He added, “No member of any delegation has told me that they are against giving India a special exemption (that the India-US nuclear deal requires).”

Menon was briefing the Indian media and no journalist working for foreign media organization were present

He said he had spent the last few days meeting various delegations and in the last three days in Vienna he had met every single member of the NSG.

The foreign secretary said that due to the nature of the NSG practice and rules of confidentiality he was unable to reveal what he has been told took place within the NSG meeting.

He admitted that some NSG members had raised concerns which the Indian delegation tried to allay both at the bilateral meetings and also during the special briefing Thursday.

“Concerns remain though the differences have narrowed down,” Menon said.

According to the foreign secretary the differences were over different reasons - some domestic, while others were on the stand they have on the nuclear issue.

“The moment of truth will be when all the 45 counties agree on a consensus,” Menon said.

He added, “We are not at all disappointed that there was no conclusion, and that the NSG will have to meet again.”

The foreign secretary made it clear that India was neither disappointed nor in a hurry.

“We are not in a hurry and not disappointed. We realise it is a process… they have to feel comfortable,” Menon said.

The NSG delegation will return Friday night or Saturday to consult with their governments and then return on Sep 4 for a two-day meeting.

Menon said that no country has told India directly that they are against a special exemption or are against India-specific exemptions.

Sources said that Ireland which earlier had reservations over giving a special exemption to India had softened its stand. But Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand were holding out. Two of these countries, Austria and New Zealand are having elections where they will have to face a strong anti-nuclear lobby.

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