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UK, Italy support N-deal, Australia guarded
December 22, 2006 10:19 IST
Britain and Italy, influential members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, have welcomed the Indo-US nuclear deal, saying it can make a "significant" contribution to India's energy security and developmental objectives.
A guarded approach has been adopted by Australia, while Canada and Ireland have preferred to wait for the final bilateral agreement between India and the US on civil nuclear cooperation.
Australia, which slapped sanctions on India after the latter conducted nuclear tests in 1998, said it was "ready to engage constructively in NSG discussions on possible civilian nuclear cooperation with India.
"At the same time, we encourage India to consider whether there are other steps it could take to increase the confidence among nuclear suppliers," the Australian High Commission's spokesman told PTI.
"The comprehensiveness of the India-IAEA safeguards agreement will be a significant factor influencing broad support for this agreement," the spokesman added.
Italian Ambassador Antonio Armellini said his country, "as a non-nuclear signatory power of the NPT, will work with its partners in the NSG to address in a constructive fashion issues posed by the Indo-US nuclear deal, with a view to achieving a positive consensus that will enhance international security and effective non-proliferation."
Aware of the challenge of taking on board concerns of the non-proliferation regime, India has been holding discussions with NSG members to ensure their support when India approaches the exclusive club.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently sought his Japanese counterpart's support for the deal when he visited Tokyo.
Reiterating Britain's support for the Indo-US deal, a British High Commission spokesperson said, "We look forward to working closely with the US and India, and with partners in NSG and elsewhere on the details of this important issue."
US President George W Bush this week signed into law a bill to implement the deal, and Washington has said it will approach the 45-member NSG to make an exception in its rules for India.
Asked what position Australia would take when India approaches the NSG, that country's spokesman said, "Until we see the relevant US-India bilateral agreement and the IAEA safeguards agreement that will be applied to India's civil nuclear sector, we cannot state how we might respond. However, NSG's consideration of civil nuclear cooperation with India raises complex issues and the possibility of significant changes to long-held positions."
Canada and Ireland, also members of the NSG, remained non-committal on the issue.
The Canadian High Commission, when contacted, said it was "monitoring these develpments closely" and would "act in accordance with Canadian interests and values at the appropriate time."
Ireland's Ambassador Kieran Dowling said, "It is not yet clear when the matter will come to the NSG for a decision, nor what the overall balance of opinion within the group will be. Ireland is continuing to analyse the situation and will continue in close contact with countries which, like us, place a particularly strong value on the NPT as the cornerstone of the global non-proliferation regime."