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Indo-Asian News Service
Washington, July 23, 2008
The US has pledged to move forward on the civilian nuclear deal with India after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won a vote of confidence in the Parliament, but a state department spokesman conceded the calendar was quite tight to get it through US Congress. "We think that we can move forward with this," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said about the nuclear deal at the daily briefing on Tuesday.

"If their legislature lets it move forward, then we can do the same here, and then we'll be able to get this wrapped up," she elaborated, adding that the deal is good for India because it would help provide a source for energy that the country needs, one that is non-polluting.

When asked whether President George W Bush would now call Singh, she said there was no need since the two "just spoke about two weeks ago when they were at the G8 meeting -- and they had a very good bilateral meeting" and Bush expressed his support to Singh on the issue.

At the Department of State press briefing in Washington, Gonzalo R Gallegos, acting deputy spokesman, said the US would move forward on the deal, step by step.

The next crucial steps for operationalisation of the deal are for India to secure the safeguards agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a waiver from 45-nation NSG before the deal goes back to the US Congress for approval.

The US Congress will have to meet before September when it breaks for session to meet only after the presidential election process is completed in January 2009. 

The tight timeline made spokesman Gallegos say: "We'll see how long the calendar gives us and whether or not we're able to continue forward."

When asked how the Bush administration plans to overcome the Congressional calendar constraint, he said it plans to communicate to Congress as quickly as possible "how important we believe this measure is for the US, how important we believe that this strategic partnership will be for India, for us, and for others concerned with security around the world." 

Gallegos affirmed that the US would strongly support approval of India's safeguards agreement by the IAEA at the meeting of the agency's board of governors Aug 1.

"We're in discussions with IAEA board members. Some are still reviewing the safeguards agreement. My understanding is the secretary will be given a technical briefing on the agreement in the coming days," he elaborated.

On the US making any efforts to convince other members of the NSG on making an exception for India, the spokesperson said: "Obviously, this is something that we've been looking at for a long time. We're going to continue to work towards it."