US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may or may not sign the 123 agreement to implement the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal during her India trip beginning Saturday as the two sides work on "administrative details."
Rice herself would not commit one way or the other to reporters on her flight to New Delhi on Friday going by a transcript released by the State Department. "In terms of what we signed, look, there are a lot of administrative details that have to be worked out."
"This was only passed in our Congress two days ago. The President (George Bush) is looking forward to signing the bill, sometime, I hope, very soon, because we'll want to use it as an opportunity to thank all of the people who have been involved in this.
"That means the Indian American community, the US-India business community, and the diplomats and others who have been involved," said Rice considered the prime architect of the deal," she said.
Asked if Bush had to sign the approval bill into law before she could sign the implementing 123 agreement, she said: "The President does not have to sign before I sign. But we're working through the details of this. I'll let you know."
"...But I'm going to draw a line under this one way or another, because it's time to put the historic agreement, say that that's done, and move on to what else we can do, because we've got a very broad relationship," Rice said. "But the whole purpose of this trip is to move forward, not to look at where we are."
Asked why the "administrative issues" were being worked out at the last minute, Rice said: "It's got to be worked out at the last minute, because there are so many administrative issues that we have to deal with.
Asked to specify "the administrative issues", she said: " Well, the - for instance, we have to enrol the bill when it comes over from the Congress."
So "look, the important thing about this trip is to talk about the next steps in the US-India relationship, not the last step, which I feel we, in some ways, put a line under that when we talked about in the State Department (at an event to celebrate the deal).
"So we'll see," said Rice without clearly indicating whether the deal would be signed or not during her India visit.