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Nuclear tests not to hinder deal: Burns

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The US has said fuel assurances and the issue of nuclear testing will not come in the way of the civilian nuclear deal with India, which it hoped, would be implemented by this year end.

"There is no problem with fuel assurances. President (George W) Bush provided assurances personally to the Prime Minister of India on the provision of fuel. We had actually codified this - there is no disagreement between India and the United States on fuel assurances that I am aware of," Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

On the issue of India's position on nuclear testing, he said, "We have a right to our respective positions. I don't think this is going to conflict with our ability to complete the 123 agreement."

On finalisation of the bilateral 123 agreement that is under negotiation to operationalise the deal, Burns said, "The big issues have been resolved and we have crossed the highest marks in these negotiations... We have crossed the biggest issues and they have been decided."

"We will complete the 123 Agreement. India will go on and for sure complete the IAEA safeguards agreement and we will take that to the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. We will be successful at the NSG. I am certain,after having consulted with all the countries in the NSG.

"And the Congress... Will have one more chance to vote on a majority basis. And we can do all that by the end of 2007... I think we can and I don't think we are going to have a major problem doing that but it does take time to get through the legal technicalities, technical technicalities," Burns said.

Burns said after the meeting that that he has plans to travel to India 'within the next thirty days' as a follow up to the recent meetings that have been taking place in Washington.

Neither Menon nor Burns would put down a specific time frame for the completion of the 123 Agreement. "The quicker the better" was the response from both officials.

Terming the nuclear accord as the "symbolic centrepiece of the bilateral engagement", Burns said it was the Bush administration's priority to get the deal "done quickly".

"It seems to me that we have the understanding already. That was done by the two leaders in July 2005 and March 2006. So our job now is a technical job, actually expressing it in legal terms that is never easy even if you have a basic understanding of what you are doing. It is not our job now to try and renegotiate in the words that we put into the 123," Menon said.

On whether India specific safeguard agreement that New Delhi will have to sort out with the IAEA could be in violation of American domestic laws, Menon said "the agreement is something that we would discuss separately with the IAEA and we are going through that process. We started that process. We hope to work it through. Whether that is compatible with US laws is something that I cannot answer."

"As far as I can see there is nothing in the basic understanding between us that contravenes either Indian laws or US law... I think it is really a test of ingenuity on how we actually express it, on how efficient we are and how quickly we can do it."