US urges India to press Iran over nuclear issue
New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) Downplaying divergences on the Iranian issue after imposing fresh sanctions, the US Monday sought India's cooperation in pressing Tehran to come clean on its nuclear programme and clarified that it was not seeking to undermine New Delhi's energy security.
US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman met Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai here on a range of issues that focused on setting the agenda for the forthcoming strategic dialogue between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in June.
Sherman also met National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and discussed closer collaboration in combating terrorism and issues related to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, informed sources said.
The US lauded India's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and promised not to allow that country to become a safe haven for international terror.
The Iranian nuclear issue figured prominently in the discussions.
India conveyed its concerns over the proposed US sanctions against Iran which has the potential to undermine India's energy security as it imports around 10-12 percent of its oil from Tehran, said the sources.
The US appreciated India's position and agreed with New Delhi that space should be created for dialogue to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue.
"Recently, the press has asserted that our two countries have divergent views on Iran. Let me correct the record. Our countries share the same fundamental goals: preserving regional stability and preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Sherman said at the American Centre here.
"Achieving these goals will require making hard choices. We recognize India's historical linkages with Iran and Persian culture and understand its interest in developing Iran as a gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia," she said.
Sherman, however, made it clear that although the US was serious about "a diplomatic resolution" of the Iranian nuclear issue, it has "made clear publicly and privately that we believe there is time and space for diplomacy, though that time is not unlimited".
Sherman assuaged India's worries about the impact of the US sanctions against Iran and sought New Delhi's leverage to persuade Tehran to dispel fears about its nuclear programme.
"We do not seek to undermine India's energy security; however, India's partnership and willingness to press Iran to fulfill its international obligations is essential for international efforts to be successful," she said.
The US recently granted an exemption from punitive sanctions to 10 European nations and Japan for significantly reducing oil imports from Iran.
India does not figure in this list. India has made it clear that it will abide by the UN sanctions but is not bound to accept unilateral sanctions.
Welcoming the recent elections in Myanmar which saw Aung San Suu Kyi winning a parliamentary seat, the US also sought closer collaboration with India to encourage reforms and national reconciliation in that country.
"Though only a small number of parliamentary seats are at stake, with the inclusion of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, today's events mark the first opportunity for many Burmese voters to participate in a genuine multi-party election," said Sherman.
"Despite our past differences, I hope we can work with India to foster this opening in Burma and build a brighter future for its citizens," she said.
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