VIENNA, Mar 24 (AFP): The United States lobbied Thursday for allowing nuclear trade with India but failed to get a key international group to take up the matter at an important upcoming session, diplomats said.
They said a consultative meeting in Vienna of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group had held off from putting the issue of India's nuclear deal on the agenda of its plenary session, to be held in Rio de Janeiro in May.
A consultative meeting ahead of the Rio session will consider the US request but, one diplomat told AFP, "it is unlikely to get on the agenda".
Washington is pressing for the international body to discuss the conditions set out in a landmark nuclear deal struck earlier this month between the United States and India.
On a visit to New Delhi, President George W. Bush agreed to give India access to nuclear technology in exchange for it separating its civil and military atomic programs and placing a majority of its reactors under international inspection.
The US-Indian deal still must be ratified by the US Congress and the NSG, which oversees trade in atomic fuel and technology.
Washington is seeking for the Nuclear Suppliers Group to discuss exempting India from nuclear export controls.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said in Washington Wednesday that once Congress approved the deal, "I think sequentially the Nuclear Suppliers Group will then want to take action on its own" to endorse the deal.
But he admitted that was "probably a few months away".
Diplomats said several NSG members, such as Sweden, Austria, Norway and Ireland, were concerned that special consideration for India could harm the world's non-proliferation regime.
India has developed atomic weapons but not signed the nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) designed to stop the spread of such arms.
The US-India deal faces domestic opposition in both countries with some Indians upset by slights to their sovereignty and a number of US lawmakers saying it sets a bad precedent.
The NSG was founded in 1974 precisely to keep nuclear technology that was transferred for peaceful purposes from being directed towards weapons development by states like India, which developed its atomic weapons after the NPT came into effect in 1970.
Acting assistant secretary of state for Stephen Rademaker, who is head of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, said Washington was "not seeking a decision" at the Vienna meeting of the NSG, but had set out to "explain our vision of civil nuclear cooperation with India, to answer questions that other delegations had about our vision."
Another US assistant secretary of state, Richard Boucher, said discussions had so far been "very balanced".
"Those who raised a lot of questions also recognized the non- proliferation benefits of bringing India closer to the system and some of the steps that India was taking."