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Delhi fights domestic fire on Iran vote

New Delhi, Sept. 26: Delhi today got into damage-control mode on the Iran nuclear vote, fielding foreign secretary Shyam Saran to convince the domestic audience that India’s decision to go with the West was made to safeguard Iranian interests.

“Our decision helped in avoiding a confrontation between the two sides,” Saran said this morning. “It also stopped the issue from being referred to the UN Security Council and gave more room for it to be resolved at the IAEA level.”

The foreign secretary said India was of the view that under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran had the “legitimate” right to pursue a peaceful nuclear programme. More important, at this juncture there was nothing to establish that the Iranian nuclear programme poses a “threat to international peace”, he said.

There were indications earlier that the US had made it clear to India that if it failed to go along with the West’s resolution, then the nuclear deal that it had signed with the US in July was unlikely to get the nod of the Congress.

But Saran argued that India’s stand was not linked to the nuclear deal. “We were all along aware of what the US position was. We were always supportive of the European three (France, Germany and Britain) initiative and we were negotiating with them to resolve the Iran crisis,” he said.

“Our main objective was to ensure that the resolution does not go to the Security Council immediately.”

The resolution passed in Vienna talks about taking the Iran nuclear issue before the UN Security Council, but does not put any timeframe for doing so.

The West wanted Iran to be referred immediately to the Security Council. But the compromise, mainly achieved through India’s efforts, Saran claimed, was to give some more time to resolve the issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This means that in November when the IAEA board of governors meets, there will be more scope for resolving the crisis through talks.

Asked why India had not abstained, Saran pointed out that it became difficult to do so after the EU-3 agreed to accommodate the points raised by India. But he quickly pointed out that “those who abstained actually helped the passage of the resolution”.

Saran said in the coming days Iran will have to suspend its uranium conversion activity as it had agreed to during talks with the EU-3.

But sources close to the Prime Minister said India had all along been talking about Iran fulfilling its NPT obligations. It was not in India’s interest to have another nuclear power emerging in the neighbourhood, they said.

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