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Nuclear exporters continue to mull India trade ban

Nuclear exporters continue to mull India trade ban

Washington scrambled Friday to convince a key group of countries to approve a landmark U.S.-India deal that would allow New Delhi to legally import nuclear materials.
The agreement with New Delhi would reverse more than three decades of U.S. policy that has barred the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to India, a country that has not signed international nonproliferation accords and has tested nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency gave India the green light earlier this month.
But India still needs approval from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, whose members began meeting in Vienna Thursday to discuss whether to grant India an exemption from its rules.
The group, currently headed by Germany, is slated to reconvene Friday. A green light would enable other countries to implement similar deals with India.
The U.S. put on a brave face after the first day of closed deliberations.
"We continue to believe this is a very important initiative and we remain committed to achieving an outcome that is both a net benefit for the nonproliferation regime and that meets India's energy needs," U.S. Undersecretary of State John Rood told reporters Thursday evening.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the United States is "very hopeful" that the Nuclear Suppliers Group would approve a waiver for India.
But some participants said the U.S. appeared caught off-guard by the number of countries that offered an array of amendments to a U.S. waiver proposal and that it was likely another meeting would be necessary following Friday's session.
One clause being pushed by a number of countries appears to be one that would revoke NSG privileges if India resumed nuclear weapons testing.
India and Washington have been pushing for an unconditional exemption.
Austria, Switzerland and Norway were among the countries that had expressed reservations before the meeting. Delegates leaving the gathering late Thursday indicated Ireland and New Zealand could also be added to the list. But they said other countries had also voiced concerns.
All participants spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.
Some countries are eager to do more business with India, and appear to back a U.S. argument that the deal would bring India into the nonproliferation mainstream. Washington considers the deal with New Delhi a foreign policy priority and hopes to gain needed approval from U.S. Congress before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office.
"Time is running short," Wood said, referring to a U.S. congressional calendar that has only a few scheduled weeks of work left before lawmakers are scheduled to break for the rest of the year to campaign for crucial November elections.
But others are concerned that exporting nuclear fuel and technology to a country that has not made a legally binding disarmament pledge could set a dangerous precedent and weaken efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and materials. Leading up to the meeting, some also argued against making any hasty decision to accommodate the U.S. Congressional calendar.
But not everyone in Washington is embracing the administration's endeavor.
Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, described the U.S.-proposed draft rule change as a "disastrous attempt to gut the global nonproliferation system."
"The NSG should reject this ill-considered, unwise and unproductive plan," Markey said in a statement.
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Associated Press writer Foster Klug in Washington contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-02 12:29 GMT+08:00