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US alive to India's N-concerns

india Updated: Nov 18, 2006 12:49 IST
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The US considers successful implementation of the India-US nuclear deal as a key element of a new strategic partnership between the two countries and hopes a Senate-House Conference in early December can address their remaining concerns.

"We look forward to working with India to fully implement this agreement, to fulfilling the commitments made by President George Bush and PM Singh in July of 2005 and March of 2006," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement issued in Hanoi on Friday.

"This is a great step forward in realising their shared vision that the world's oldest and largest democracies accomplish great things in the new century," she said welcoming the strong support for the historic US-India civil nuclear cooperation initiative shown by Thursday's 85-12 vote in the Senate.

Thanking the Senate and appreciating its willingness to consider the legislation promptly, she said, "We look forward to the Senate-House conference in December, when remaining issues of concern to the US government can be addressed."

Successful implementation of the civil nuclear initiative is a key element of a new strategic partnership between the US and India. This initiative will help India meet its growing energy needs, enhance cooperation on energy security and non-proliferation, and increase economic investment opportunities, Rice said.

Meanwhile, key US negotiator for the India deal is planning to make a trip to India in mid-December to close all remaining issues after a Senate-House conference works out a common enabling bill earlier in the month.

"We will work with India and Congress to see if the sensitivities can be dealt with at the conference. We will do our best," Undersecretary of State Nick Burns said during a media teleconference.

Negotiations over the so-called "123 Agreement" - a term for a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact with a foreign country under the conditions outlined in Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act - between the US and India should now move forward "very very soon," he said.

New Delhi has expressed concern about some provisions in the Senate bill and unpalatable references to Iran in the House version with Singh conveying his hope to Bush that the bill in its final form will accommodate India's stated concerns.

Section 106 of the Senate bill ,for one prohibits the export of any equipment, materials or technology related to the enrichment of uranium, the reprocessing of spent fuel, or the production of heavy water.

Another provision, Section 107, requires an end-use monitoring programme to be carried out with respect to US exports and re-exports of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology sold or leased to India.

Burns was hopeful that the administration would be able to address these and other concerns as it works with the Senate and House conferees charged with drafting a common bill for the full Congress to approve and send to the White House.

The official said he had extensive discussions over telephone with India's chief negotiator Shyam Saran after Thursday's vote. "We congratulated each other...of course there are some questions the Indian government has raised about language and certifications."

"We are talking to lawmakers and we hope the conference will iron out any remaining issues," Burns said, suggesting that there could be "subtle revisions" in some of the language.

The US would also help India present its case before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), he said adding, "I have great confidence that the NSG will agree by consensus to provide the same relief to India (that the US will)," Burns said.

Rejecting the possibility of 'placating' Pakistan with a similar deal he said, "This is a unique agreement with a unique country and we would not be seeking similar relief to American law to any other country."

Burns declined comment on reports that China may help Pakistan with supply of nuclear fuel and technology. But a senior administration official indicated before Bush left for Hanoi that he may raise the issue of nuclear proliferation by Chinese entities to Pakistan when he meets President Hu Jintao.

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