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US tempers optimism on India N-deal

The US says it is uncertain whether a senior official will visit New Delhi this month to complete the agreement.

world Updated: May 17, 2007 13:51 IST

The United States on Wednesday tempered its exuberant optimism about a nuclear cooperation deal with India and said it was uncertain whether a senior official would visit New Delhi this month to complete the agreement.

On May 1, the two countries claimed extensive progress during two days of talks aimed at salvaging their landmark nuclear cooperation agreement and Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, the chief US negotiator, said he would "visit India in the second half of May to find closure."

But on Wednesday, a State Department spokesman told Reuters that while Burns could still visit India this month, "he's got nothing scheduled for now."

Burns will go to New Delhi "when we are ready to seal the deal. We're not at that point yet," said the spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He added: "Nobody I've talked to offered a prediction as to when that would be."

The much-heralded deal would give India access to US nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in 30 years, even though New Delhi tested nuclear weapons and never signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

It is viewed as the touchstone of new US-India relationship that the Americans see as a pillar of 21st century international security, but it's history since it was first announced in 2005 has been rocky.

A congressional source who in recent weeks had been persuaded that the two sides had indeed narrowed their differences said the State Department comments on Wednesday were "a definite change in enthusiasm and one wonders if they have gotten some bad news (from New Delhi) in the last week." US officials provided no further details.