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Officials working hard to conclude 123

india Updated: Jun 02, 2007 03:39 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

While some progress has been made at the end of the second day of intensive talks to try and conclude the bilateral 123 Agreement before US President George Bush meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Heiligendamm next week, officials refused comment on how soon the deal might materialise.

According to sources, what negotiators are close to working out and agreeing to is an enabling clause that will allow India the right to reprocess spent fuel. Specific details allowing the kind of reprocessing rights that have been given to Japan or the Euratom partners can be negotiated gradually.

Similarly, there is unlikely to be any specific mention in the proposed 123 Agreement of the United States cutting off all nuclear collaboration if India should test a nuclear device. The formulation is likely to be that both countries will be bound by their domestic laws if such an event occurs.

The United States Atomic Energy Act makes it mandatory for it to cease nuclear-related collaboration if a partner country tests a nuclear device.

Earlier on Friday US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said both sides are 'working hard' on taking forward their landmark civilian nuclear deal but it would be 'very hard' to put a timeframe on concluding their negotiations.

"We're working very hard, we're working very well," Burns, the key US interlocutor said before he started talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon this morning. "It's very hard to tell...when the work will be done," he said, indicating that tough negotiations still remained to resolve the outstanding differences.

Both countries will need to be able to convince their legislatures of the contours of the deal once it is finalised. The 123 Agreement has to pass muster with the US Houses of Congress before it can become legally binding.

Burns also met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Advisor MK Narayanan on Friday evening.