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IAEA board gets India's safeguards agreement

Last updated on: July 10, 2008 01:46 IST

The draft India-specific nuclear safeguards accord with the International Atomic Energy Agency was on Wednesday circulated to the nuclear watchdog's Board of Governors for approval following a 'request' from the Indian government.

The safeguards pact, which is the next step in the operationalisation of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, was sent to the 35-nation Board on a day when the Left parties formally withdrew support from the United Progressive Alliance government, following a bitter feud over the deal which has remained stalled for several months.

"At the request of the government of India, the IAEA Secretariat today circulated to members of the IAEA board of governors for their consideration the draft of an 'Agreement with the Government of India for the Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities'," IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said in a press statement issued at the Agency headquarters in Vienna.

Fleming said the Board Chairman would consult members to fix a date to discuss the draft amid reports that a special governors meeting will be convened in Vienna on July 28 to discuss the safeguards text.

"The chairman of the board is consulting with board members to agree on a date for a board meeting when the agreement would be considered," she said.

The move significantly comes in the backdrop of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee saying that India will approach the IAEA only after seeking a trust vote.

The draft text was finalised between a technical committee of the IAEA and a team of Indian experts including Atomic Energy Commission chief Dr Anil Kakodkar after several rounds of parleys.

Facing stiff timelines, India needs the approval of IAEA governors, then the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, where there are some reservations because India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and finally ratification by the US Congress.

Describing the circulation of the draft as a 'turning point', Fleming said the Board Chairman would have to consult each of the 35 governors before fixing a date for approving the 30-page draft.

"It is quite possible that the Board may meet in the last week of July," she said.

The spokesperson said that since the Governors may need considerable time to study the draft, the meeting could also be delayed.

Today's development came just a day after External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement that the government would send the draft text to the Board of Governors for approval only after it has won the trust vote in Parliament.

"I cannot bind the government if we lose our majority," Mukherjee had said.

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