Tuesday, September 27, 2005

‘We helped Iran buy time’

Deccan Herald:
Since certain points in the resolution were in favour of Iran, it was not right for India to abstain from voting, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has maintained.

Faced with strong criticism from the Left and BJP on India voting against Iran’s interest at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna, the Centre on Monday clarified that India actually helped Iran buy time for “negotiations and consultations” thereby avoiding a major diplomatic crisis. READ MORE

India was successful in conceding EU-3 (comprising Britain, France and Germany) on two major counts to reduce confrontation. We believe the current situation is not a threat to international peace and security and there is significant time for negotiation. Our objective is helpful to Iran,” Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said after his return from the US.

Two major issues

The foreign secretary explained that the IAEA resolution had addressed two major preoccupations — no immediate reference of the Iranian nuclear issue to the UN Security Council and giving more time for further discussions and negotiations.

If there had been an immediate reference to the UNSC, Iran had made it clear to walk out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, rubbish the IAEA additional protocol and perhaps begin enrichment activity, he said.

“We participated in a major effort with EU-3 countries to dilute some of the points in the resolution, which were of interest to Iran. Since they conceded on two critical points, it was not correct for us to abstain from voting,” Mr Saran said.

The IAEA resolution says Iran’s nuclear issues would not be referred to UNSC immediately and the issue would be revisited in November, 2005.

“There is certainly no implication that India has any reservation about Iran’s pursuit of a peaceful nuclear energy programme consistent with global non-proliferation norms. That is something on which there is no ambiguity.” On Iran’s stand on conversion of Uranium into fissile-grade material, Mr Sharan clarified that though Iran is not legally bound to suspend conversion, Tehran in consultation with EU-3 agreed to suspend conversion as an international confidence building measure.

Meanwhile, Union Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee denied that India acted under US pressure in voting against Iran. “We took a stand that Iran should be given more time for peaceful resolution of the issue. The issue should not be sent to the UNSC, but to the IAEA Board,” he said on the sidelines of national expo of agro and rural industries here.