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India Calls for Probe of Pakistani Nuclear Scientist

India is calling on the international community not to gloss over a Pakistani scientist's alleged role in encouraging Iran's controversial nuclear program. A top official has strongly defended India's own record on nuclear non-proliferation.

India's top foreign ministry official, Shyam Saran, said Monday the International Atomic Energy Agency should not only investigate countries suspected of having a clandestine nuclear weapons program, but also those suspected of supplying the technology.

Speaking at a lecture in New Delhi, Foreign Secretary Mr. Saran specifically referred to Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who admitted last year to providing nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

"With respect to the Iran nuclear issue, we welcome Iran's cooperation with the IAEA in accounting for previously undeclared activities, but it is important that remaining issues which involve the Pakistan-based A.Q. Khan network are satisfactorily clarified as well," said Mr. Saran. "We see no reason why there should be an insistence on personal interviews with Iranian scientists, but an exception granted to a man who has been accused of running a 'global, nuclear Wal-Mart'."

Teheran and New Delhi are old friends - but India surprised observers last month when it voted with the United States and several European countries to threaten Iran with referral to the U.N. Security Council for undisclosed nuclear activities.

Mr. Saran's comments come as India attempts to project itself as a responsible nuclear state.

The United States agreed in July to give New Delhi civilian nuclear technology so far denied to countries outside the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT.

But the deal has to be approved by the U.S. Congress and the international Nuclear Suppliers Group, which bars cooperation with non-NPT members.

Some skeptical U.S. lawmakers and countries have suggested that making India an exception to international rules will promote rather than curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Saran says the international community should treat India as a partner rather than a target.

"The international community also needs to ask whether the global non-proliferation regime is better with India inside the tent, or outside? Will civil nuclear energy cooperation with India strengthen the non-proliferation system or weaken it? Obviously we cannot be inside the tent if we do not measure up to the required norms," he added. "We of course are convinced that we do."

The civilian technology deal with Washington will help India build nuclear power plants to meet its burgeoning energy needs.