IRAN accused the Bush administration on Wednesday of operating a double standard and undermining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by agreeing to aid India’s civil nuclear programme, while insisting that Tehran abandon its nuclear ambitions or face international sanctions.

The Iranian accusation will raise the temperature as the EU3 — Britain, France and Germany — prepare to unveil a “final” draft proposal on curbing Iran’s nuclear programme early next month. The US and Israel suspect Iran is only months away from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran flatly denies.

The EU3 plan is expected to offer limited economic incentives and energy generation assistance if Iran forgoes uranium enrichment, which is associated with the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

But Iranian resistance to the proffered deal may have been reinforced by President George Bush’s unexpected decision last week to acknowledge India’s status as a nuclear weapons state and offer “full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade”, despite the fact that India, unlike Iran, has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). “India is looking after its own national interests. We cannot criticise them for this,” a senior Iranian official said. “But what the Americans are doing is a double standard.

“On the one hand, they are depriving an NPT member from having peaceful technology, but at the same time they are cooperating with India, which is not a member of the NPT, to their own advantage.” The US policy shift has been attributed to Washington’s wish to develop a strategic security relationship with India. The Clinton administration imposed sanctions on Delhi after its 1998 nuclear bomb tests. The tests confirmed India as a nuclear power and led Pakistan to follow suit.

But the move, yet to be approved by the US Congress or agreed with the 40-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, has been criticised by administration opponents for circumventing the NPT. Nigel Chamberlain of the independent British American Security Information Council said the Iranian accusation appeared justified, given that Tehran had apparently complied so far with the NPT and International Atomic Energy Agency inspection requirements.

“The Iranians do feel they are being singled out unfairly. It is very difficult to say that there are legal grounds to tell them to stop doing what they are doing. And India now seems to have benefited by standing outside the treaty,” Mr Chamberlain said.

He said Washington’s move was potentially fatal for an NPT regime already severely weakened by the failure of last May’s treaty review conference, scene of what he called “a running battle” between Iran and the US, as well as disputes over the failure of acknowledged nuclear weapons states, such as the US and Britain, to relinquish their arms. The unveiling of the EU3 plan could coincide with the inauguration on August 6 of Iran’s conservative new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Observers have suggested he may take a tougher line than his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.

But the senior Iranian official said that while “methods and tactics” might alter when the new government took office, Tehran’s basic insistence on its legal right to develop its nuclear industry would not change. “People are getting impatient,” the official said. “We have said repeatedly that we are ready to give guarantees to the EU3 and IAEA that we are not diverting from our peaceful nuclear activity.” —Dawn/The Guardian News Service

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