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Vote against Iran, or else: warns US
If Delhi decides not to vote for the Iran resolution… I think the nuclear initiative will die in Congress
— Mulford

New Delhi/Washington, Jan. 25: The US has warned that if India does not vote with it against Iran, the nuclear agreement between Manmohan Singh and George W. Bush could come unstuck.

David Mulford, the US ambassador, told PTI in an interview that the Indo-US nuclear deal would “die” if New Delhi supported Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting on February 2 to decide if Tehran should be referred to the UN Security Council.

If a referral is made, Iran could face international sanctions over its nuclear programme.

The US “Congress will simply stop considering the matter”, dealing a “devastating” blow to the landmark agreement announced last year when Singh was in the US, Mulford said, but claimed later that his remarks “have been taken out of context”.

India may, however, be saved from taking the tough decision as the board of governors of IAEA ' the UN’s nuclear watchdog ' is unlikely to refer Iran to the Security Council at the next meeting.

Sources at the UN said Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA’s director-general, who had repeatedly cautioned the Americans against invading Iraq over Saddam Hussein’s nuclear programme, was doing the same over Iran.

The sources said ElBaradei had let it be known that IAEA’s comprehensive report on Tehran’s nuclear programme would not be ready until the end of February.

Such a position can be frustrating for the White House, which is keen to demonstrate that its writ still runs at international forums.

Mulford used a carrot-and-stick approach to get India on the US side. “We have made it known to them (New Delhi) that we would very much like India’s support because India has arrived on the world stage and is a very very important player in the world,” he said.

In the same breath, he implied that the Indian government was guilty of hypocrisy. “If it (India) opposes Iran having nuclear weapons, we think they should record it in the vote.”

Mulford’s task of delivering the Indian vote to Washington has become challenging not only because of the long-standing opposition from the Left against voting with the Americans against Iran, but also because of intense diplomatic activity by Tehran in recent days.

Its top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani is in Moscow to move forward on a Russian offer to enrich Iranian uranium at plants in Russia as a way out of Tehran’s confrontation with the West.

If India does not vote against Iran at the IAEA, Mulford narrated the consequences for the Bush-Singh nuclear deal, under which the US has agreed to civilian nuclear cooperation with India.

“I think the initiative will die in Congress. Not because the administration would want it to,” he said.

India rejected the US attempt to link the fate of the nuclear deal to the Iran vote.

“The position that India will take on the issue at IAEA will be based on India’s own independent judgement,” the external affairs ministry said.

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