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PM leaves for US, France tomorrow

india Updated: Sep 21, 2008 13:47 IST

PTI
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Armed with an NSG waiver, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh embarks on a 10-day visit to the US and France on Monday amid mounting suspense over the Indo-US nuclear deal clearing the final Congressional hurdle in time for President George W Bush to toast the landmark accord.

Singh's first diplomatic engagement abroad after the crucial waiver that ended the country's 34-year nuclear isolation may also see India and France firm up an agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation after summit talks with President Nicholas Sarkozy in Paris on September 30.

With just three working days left for the US Congress to take a call on the 123 agreement to clear the decks for the nuke deal in its last lap, the White House is optimistic of wrapping up the pact during Singh's working visit to Washington on September 25 for a meeting with Bush.

In the backdrop of a string of terror attacks in India, terrorism will be high on Singh's agenda in his parleys with Bush and bilateral meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the 62nd annual session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Singh is expected to firmly convey India's strong concerns over cross-border terrorism and remind Pakistan about its commitments in this regard at his first meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari who has just spoken about the need for bilateral ties to be "creatively reinvented".

A meeting with Chinese premier Wen Jiabo has also been scheduled during which the two leaders are expected to put behind the strains in bilateral relations following Beijing's perceived negative role at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meet in Vienna.

Singh, who had last addressed the UN in 2005, will be in New York from September 23 to 27 after an overnight halt in Frankfurt. He will be attending the Indo-European Union (EU) Summit in Marseilles in September 29.

At the UN, Singh is expected to make a strong case for the expansion of the Security Council and democratisation of the UN systems. He will also touch upon important issues including terrorism, verifiable and comprehensive nuclear disarmament, food crisis and poverty eradication.