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Interview With Aajtak of India

R. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Interview Via Telephone
Washington, DC
August 6, 2007

QUESTION: Thank you very much for being with us on the program, Mr. Burns.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: It’s a pleasure.

QUESTION: Are you convinced that the final draft of the 123 session is in keeping with the provisions of the Hyde Act? And do you believe that the Congress will give it bipartisan support just like they gave it in December of 2006?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes, I’m convinced that the 123 Agreement conforms in every way with the provisions of the Hyde Act and with American law. I made sure of that as the American negotiator. We’ll make that case to the Congress. We hope very much that we’ll have congressional support.

We had very strong congressional support last December when the Hyde act was passed. We had bipartisan support, which in our system means both Democrats and Republicans voted for it in strong numbers. And that’s the goal that we have when the agreement comes back to our Congress toward the end of this calendar year.

QUESTION: One of the provisions in the 123 relates with testing which is not included in the Hyde Act and this is something that has been voiced concern about by a lot of congressmen in Washington. How do you respond to that? A lot of it has been written also by non-proliferationists in the press of the United States. So how would you respond to that, and would that affect the chances of the deal in the Congress?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I would respond by saying that the obligation that we have to protect American law in the event of a nuclear attack has been protected specifically in the 123 Agreement. So there’s nothing at all that should cause concern on the part of any of the lawmakers in the United States. In fact we sent the text of the agreement to the Congress last Thursday afternoon. They all have copies of it. They can look at it and they’ll see that the Atomic Energy Act, which is the relevant law in the United States, and the legal obligations of our President and future Presidents, have been fully protected.

QUESTION: You’ve said that you will shepherd India both at the NSG[*] and at the IAEA* for the Safeguard Agreement with the atomic energy industry. What are the concerns that still remain, considering the fact that there are dissenting voices in the NSG, China, for example?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, I think that what the world is going to want to see is India establish a Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA as soon as possible. We hope that can happen no later than the first of September. Then we can have perhaps one or two meetings of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in the autumn, and the United States intends to very strongly support India’s cause at the Nuclear Suppliers Group because we’re convinced that the international proliferation system is going to be stronger with India on the inside rather than India on the outside. And India’s been on the outside for 30 years.

It’s time to relieve India of that isolation. We have this anomalous situation now where we have countries like India on the outside that have been playing by the rules, and we have countries like Iran on the inside, as members of the NPT*, that have actually cheated on their NPT obligations. So we want to focus and to bring India in, and we also want to make sure that we can all work together to deny Iran the nuclear weapons capability that we believe it is planning to acquire, and therefore to send a very strong international statement for the Iranians that the leading countries of the world will not stand by and conduct business as usual as long as the Iranians are trying, against international will and law, to create a nuclear weapons capability for themselves.

QUESTION: Alright, alright sir. Thank you very much Nick Burns, for being on the program.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you, thank you so much.



[*] Nuclear Suppliers Group

* International Atomic Energy Agency

* Non-Proliferation Treaty



Released on August 13, 2007

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