The US says its nuclear deal with India would be in its national interest from several perspectives including an important priority of realising a different kind of relationship with New Delhi.
"At the end of the day, what we produce and what we may agree to is going to be something that is in the interest of this country from a variety of different perspectives," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Wednesday, declining to go into details of the implementing 123 agreement hammered out at official level talks here last week
These range "from helping to prevent the further spread of nuclear technologies and nuclear materials, and also in realising a different kind of relationship with India that President (George) Bush has really made an important priority for the administration going all the way back to the first term," he said.
Asked to comment on reports that US had acceded to India's demands relating to its right to conduct another nuclear test because it needed an agreement, McCormack said Washington was "not going to agree to anything that is not in the United States' national interest.
"And in terms of 'needing agreements', we're certainly not going to do anything that we believe is harmful to either our national security or foreign policy interests."
<b1>There are some continuing discussions with the Indians regarding the so-called 123 agreement, he said, refusing to go beyond the joint statement issued at the end of talks here last Friday. "I would expect within the next couple of days we would have more to say about it."
"In the fullness of time, we will have more to say about the details of what we've been talking to the Indians about. At this point, I am not at liberty to get into any more of the details," McCormack repeated in response to another question about India being permitted to reprocess US supplied nuclear fuel.
The joint statement had claimed only "substantial progress made on the outstanding issues in the 123 agreement," but Indian officials said the agreement had been finalised and was being referred to the two governments "for final review".
The agreement was approved at a joint meeting of India's cabinet committees on security and political affairs in New Delhi Wednesday.
Details of the so-called 123 agreement have been kept under wraps but reports suggests that Washington has agreed in principle to India's proposal to reprocess spent fuel in a dedicated national facility under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
McCormack noted that once the implementation agreement was adopted by the two governments, India also needed to sign an additional IAEA protocol and win approval from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
The final 123 agreement has to be approved again by the US Congress in an up or down vote. The legislature had approved the nuclear deal in principle last December to set the ball rolling for talks on the implementing accord.
Meanwhile, 23 members of the US House of Representatives warned "any inconsistencies between the so-called 123 agreement and US laws would put final Congressional approval of the deal in doubt.
<b2>"If the 123 agreement has been intentionally negotiated to side-step or bypass the law and the will of Congress, final approval for this deal will be jeopardized," said Edward Markey, co-chairman of the House bipartisan task force on non-proliferation.
Based on leaked details of the finalised 123 agreement, "three or four significant issues could be in conflict with US laws," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the US Arms Control Association, said.
Accepting India's request to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Kimball said, could be risky as not all Indian nuclear facilities would come under international safeguards.