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Pranab, Rice dawdle on N-deal again

Mukherjee, who is on his maiden bilateral visit to Washington as External Affairs Minister, said his government is engaged in discussions with various political parties.

world Updated: Mar 25, 2008 04:17 IST

Facing timelines, India and the US today waffled on the civilian nuclear deal with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee saying there is some “political problem” on the domestic front and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserting Washington will “continue” to work on it.

“We are interested in implementing the landmark agreement reached. But now we have some political problem,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after a 30-minute meeting here with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The minister is expected to have a separate meeting with President Bush.

Conveying Washington’s desire to take the deal forward, Rice said it is a “landmark agreement which is good for both sides....We will continue to work on that agreement.”

On negotiations with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards agreement, Mukherjee said the discussions are over. “The agreement is yet to be initialled and approved by the board of governors of the IAEA.”

India needs to firm up the agreement with the IAEA and secure changes in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to enable nuclear commerce with it.

The Left parties, stoutly opposing the deal in its present form, have threatened to withdraw support to the government if steps were taken to operationalise it.

The US has nudged India into concluding the agreement with the IAEA and seek NSG waiver by May to give the Congress time to have a final vote on the deal.

Mukherjee complimented Rice for transforming Indo-US relations, and spoke of growing bilateral relations in the realm of trade, agriculture and science and technology.

There is “momentum in defence ties and peaceful exploration of outer space,” Mukherjee said.

“We agreed to maintain the positive momentum” he said, in reference to PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to the US and President Bush’s India visit.