US sends top envoy to Vienna to push n-deal

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : The US is sending a top diplomat to Vienna for “some consultations” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the India-US civil nuclear deal Friday when New Delhi presents its case.

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Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, who has succeeded Nick Burns as Washington’s pointman on the deal, is “going to have some consultations at the IAEA related to the India civil nuclear deal,” Friday, the State Department said Wednesday.

“I don’t have any more details for you than that, that he is going to be in Vienna at the IAEA for some consultations on India’s civil nuclear deal,” said spokesman Sean McCormack when pressed for more information.

The third ranking US diplomat who is on his way to Geneva to join multinational talks on Iran’s nuclear programme Saturday would be stopping over in Vienna for consultations on the India deal. Burns’ presence in Vienna is considered significant as the US is committed to be “India’s sherpa” at the 45-natiion Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) once New Delhi wins IAEA’s approval for an India specific safeguards agreement.

The draft text of the safeguards agreement negotiated with IAEA experts will be considered for approval by the board at a special session Aug 1.

An Indian team led by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon is set to brief the IAEA’s governing board and NSG countries on New Delhi’s plan for inspections of its 14 declared civilian atomic reactors under the proposed agreement with the UN nuclear watchdog Friday.

Among the 35 members of the IAEA board, 26 are NSG countries. Other NSG countries have also been invited for the special briefing.

The crucial briefing aimed at garnering support for the nuclear deal will coincide with the third anniversary of the July 18, 2005 joint statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush that set the ball rolling for the landmark accord to end India’s nuclear isolation.

Apart from winning the IAEA governors’ approval for the safeguards draft, India and the US need to get clearance from the 45-nation NSG that controls global nuclear trade before the implementing 123 agreement goes for ratification by the US Congress.