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Iran cloud on N-deal

New Delhi, Oct. 27: Delhi has risked jeopardising its civilian nuclear deal with Washington by saying it doesn’t want Iran’s nuclear programme to be referred to the UN Security Council: it would rather see the issue resolved at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Delhi has also expressed its desire for “long-term” energy cooperation with Iran.

These remarks by foreign minister Natwar Singh could anger members of the US Congress, who have begun a hearing in Washington to decide if American domestic laws should be changed to allow India access to US civilian nuclear energy.

Singh’s earlier visit to Iran had led several US Congressmen to ask, at the last hearing of the foreign relations committee in September, whether Delhi could be a reliable US ally when it was going out of its way to build ties with Tehran.

Many Congress members are not too keen to pass the civilian nuclear technology to India.

Delhi’s vote at the IAEA meeting next month would be keenly watched by many, including the US. Though Washington officially refuses to link India’s vote with the civilian nuclear deal, foreign policy observers believe that the pact will not go through if Delhi fails to condemn Iran’s alleged “clandestine nuclear programme”.

The Indian foreign minister met Iranian Vice-President Pervez Dawoodi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Moscow yesterday.

On the nuclear issue, Singh made it clear that “India would wish to avoid any reference to the UN Security Council and that the matter should be amicably resolved within the purview of the IAEA”.

India, however, has refused to be drawn into a controversy over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reported remark that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth.

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