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Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Nicholas Burns -- the Administration's point man to push through the US-India civilian nuclear agreement through Congress in order to help India meet its acute energy needs and wean it from dependence on Iranian oil and gas -- said the US had been assured by India that for all the speculation and reports of major energy agreements with Tehran, no such deal had been consummated.
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During the question and answer session that followed his major speech on 'US Policy Toward Iran,' at his alma mater, the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, he said, 'The Indians have assured us that there is no plan on the table that is ready for a decision by the Iranian and Indian governments � that any plans, any discussions have been hypothetical and are years away.'
'We would hope that these relationships would not be consummated,' he added. 'We would hope that as long as Iran is run by the type of government that runs it today, major governments in the world would not provide it long-term support through energy ties and we would hope that countries will look for energy resources elsewhere.'
Burns conceded that it's a tough decision and "complicated because obviously Iran is a major exporter of both oil and gas, but we wouldn't want to see new contracts made." But he also told a questioner 'You draw the right conclusion in terms of Iran's foreign and strategic policy of its use of energy as a device to gain approval from other countries."
He acknowledged that 'these are sovereign decisions made by other governments,' and that governments 'have to make their own decisions they want to make. But we have a point of view and we have registered that point of view.'
'In the case of India,' Burns reiterated, 'its hypothetical' that India was on the verge of signing on to long-term energy agreements with Iran. 'There is no deal on the table that would represent a decision today,' he emphasized.
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Even as he slammed Tehran for its development of a nuclear weapons capability, support for international terrorism, and gross violations of human rights, Burns acknowledged that over the past several years, Iran had used access to its energy resources to build stronger ties with major US allies like India and even competitors like China.
Burns noted that 'in the case of India, a lot of people have asked whether or not the United States will support or seek to dissuade India in engaging in a long-term energy relationship with Iran.'
Earlier, Burns spoke of the aggressive diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to return to the negotiating table at the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding its nuclear program and stop the enrichment of uranium, and noted, 'What's interesting about the diplomacy is that it's not just the European Union making this request -- it's now increasingly Russia [Images], and you saw the statement by the government of India in September.'
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At that time, New Delhi had at the board of governors meeting at the IAEA voted with the US and the EU finding Iran in violation of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.
He said, 'In coordination with our allies and our friends around the world, the US seeks to isolate Iran. It seeks to promote a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear ambitions�to expose and oppose Iran's support of terrorism. And to advance the cause of democracy and human rights within Iran.'
Burns said this vote by India had really 'surprised the Iranians, when India voted to find Iran in violation of its IAEA obligations. And you've seen a lot of other countries around the world -- an increasingly united group of countries calling for Iran to pull back in its nuclear ambitions."
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Burns said that 'when we talk to countries diplomatically -- behind closed doors -- in my experiences over eight months, not a single country has contested the allegation that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability or that it is promoting terrorism and harboring terrorists.'
He said if anyone thought that Washington's allegation that Iran is providing a safe haven for international terrorists -- including those who belong to al Qaeda -- 'is somehow a specious claim, you might imagine that a country that has been close to Iran in the past, a country that's a member of the non-aligned movement might speak up on Iran's behalf. We haven't seen that."
Burns recalled that the only country 'that voted with Iran in September at the IAEA was Venezuela.'
He noted that no support was forthcoming from "China or Russia or India or Brazil [Images] on these charges -- the deep concern over support for terrorism, over its nuclear weapons research program -- and that's consequential."
Burns said Russia, India, and China, had assured the US that 'they don't want to see Iran develop a nuclear weapons capability. That's what all the governments with which we consistently deal with are saying.'
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Thus, he said, Iran should take cognizance of the fact that 'there is an international coalition with a very strong united message,' including the likes of Russia, India and China, 'on this nuclear issue.'
'There was a time when the United States and a few other countries were a lonely voice. That's no longer the case,' Burns said.
Burns predicted that with regard to a decision at the IAEA to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council if it does not acquiesce to return to the negotiating table and cease its enrichment of uranium, 'the politics and diplomacy of that will unfold, I think, over the next 30 to 40 days.'
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