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Now-or-never stage not reached: US

The India-US civil nuclear deal has not reached the point of “now or never”, the White House says after External Affairs Minister talks with President GW Bush.

world Updated: Mar 27, 2008 03:06 IST

The India-US civil nuclear deal has not reached the point of “now or never”, the White House has said after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s talks with President George W Bush here.

“We have a little bit of time before we have to say now or never. We’ve got several months to continue to work with them (India),” White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Wrapping up his two-day visit, Mukherjee, who had a 35-minute meeting with Bush and held talks with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, said the UPA government was “interested” in pursuing the India-US civil nuclear deal and that it was aware of the July timeline suggested by members of the US Congress. “There are some issues that are yet to be resolved. Unless those issues are resolved, it would be difficult for us to fix any particular time frame,” he told a press conference here.

He explained the difficulties of moving forward on the deal without political consensus. “At this juncture, it is difficult for me to indicate any time frame by which we will be able to complete the process. We have some problems in the domestic field, particularly among our supporters of the coalition government which we are heading. We are trying to resolve that issue but it might take some more time,” Mukherjee said before flying to London on his way back home.

Asked if the UPA was ready to sacrifice the government for the deal if no consensus emerged, the minister said: “It’s not a question of sacrificing either the government or the deal.”

The US has been looking at India firming up the safeguards agreement with the IAEA and securing changes in the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group by July. About the possibility of the deal getting Congress approval by mid-year, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack spoke of the constraints if India failed to complete the processes.