Nuclear exporters to delay decision on India trade

The first day of a Vienna meeting of nuclear- exporting countries ended inconclusively Thursday, with diplomats saying members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) would not reach an agreement this week on allowing trade with India, dpa reported.

Several of the 45 members of the NSG, which sets international export control standards, proposed several conditions India has to meet if it wants to access international nuclear materials and technology, according to diplomats.

India and the United States, which signed a nuclear trade deal in 2005, have said they want an unconditional exemption.

The exception for India is one of the last necessary steps before the south-east Asian nation can implement its bilateral agreement with the US. Under the deal, Washington pledged to lobby NSG members for a trade exemption, while New Delhi agreed to several non- proliferation commitments.

"The meeting was absolutely inconclusive," one participant said, adding that bilateral discussions among NSG members would continue overnight and Friday morning before this meeting's final session on Friday afternoon.

Another meeting, possibly in early September, would be needed to find consensus among nuclear suppliers, diplomats said.

Austria, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and several other countries are concerned about making an exception from current export control rules which stipulate that countries like India which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should not have access to sensitive materials and technology.

At the meeting, a large number of countries demanded that nuclear trade with India should end, or be reviewed, if the nuclear weapons country tested another atom bomb, participants said.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed in reaction to India's bomb test in 1974, which it had built using imported reactor technology.

Several nuclear suppliers said Thursday that New Delhi should join the global nuclear test-ban treaty as a condition for green-lighting exports, an NSG diplomat said. But the US immediately made clear it would not agree to such a provision.

Another idea put forward at the meeting was to put a time limit on India's trade status.

The US lead negotiator at the NSG meeting, Undersecretary John Rood, told reporters that his country would "remain committed to achieving an outcome that is both a net benefit for the non-proliferation regime and that meets India's energy needs."

"So I remain optimistic that we will be able to be successful in this process," he said.

The Indian delegation, led by Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, briefed Nuclear Suppliers Group members in a separate meeting Thursday morning, in order to sway critical countries.

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