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US says nuclear deal with India at risk

world Updated: Apr 19, 2007 13:02 IST

The landmark nuclear energy deal between the United States and India is in jeopardy because New Delhi wants key clauses rewritten, a senior US official told the Financial Times daily on Thursday.

US State Department officials say India's tough stance is threatening to unravel the agreement, which gives the South Asian state unprecedented access to nuclear fuel without having to sign a non-proliferation treaty.

The business daily, citing the officials, said New Delhi is insisting President George W Bush's administration rewrite key elements of the law approved by Congress last year.

"We are disappointed with the pace and seriousness of the civil nuclear negotiations with India," Nicholas Burns, the US under secretary of state, told the newspaper.

"It is time to accelerate our efforts to achieve a final deal."

According to people close to the talks, Indian negotiators are contesting a clause which states that the United States would withdraw civil nuclear fuel supplies and equipment if India breached its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, the FT said.

Officials from India's Department of Atomic Energy insist that the country, which is termed "a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology" under the July 2005 deal, must retain the right to test nuclear weapons.

The report said officials in Washington are surprised at India's stance.

"That the US government would go to such lengths to help India out and that India is now in the position of aggrieved party in the talks is extraordinary," Michael Krepon, a public policy expert in Washington, told the newspaper.

"If, as a result, this deal stalls, the next US administration and the one after that will be very reluctant to extend such help to India."