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India, US to hold N-deal talks on Thursday

Both countries will hold high level talks this week to sort out the remaining differences on the "123 agreement".
PTI | By HT Correspondent, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 27, 2007 05:02 PM IST

India and the US will hold high level talks in New Delhi this week on a proposed agreement to operationalise the civil nuclear deal in an attempt to wind up the negotiations ahead of the summit meeting between the two countries early next month.

US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns will be in New Delhi for two days from Thursday to hold talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon to sort out the remaining differences on the "123 agreement".

The key negotiators of the two sides will aim at resolving differences on aspects like reprocessing right and continuity of civil nuclear cooperation if India were to conduct an atomic test in future.

The meeting between Menon and Burns was earlier expected to take place last week but was postponed as the US had sought some technical clarifications on a draft text presented by India, sources said.

The clarifications were provided by India at a two-day expert-level meeting in London from May 21 after which the two sides reported "further progress" towards finalisation of the mutually-agreed text of the agreement.

The upcoming talks assume significance as the two sides will aim at concluding negotiations on the 123 agreement ahead of the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush in Germany on the sidelines of G-8 Summit on June 7.

Ahead of his visit here to make the "final effort", Burns sounded optimistic about clinching the agreement but maintained that "some compromises" needed to be made by both sides to make it possible.

"We have made enormous progress on talks on the 123 agreement. We are 90 per cent there," he said in Washington four days back.

Burns said the technical-level discussions between the two countries in London had witnessed a "lot of progress".

He noted that it had taken "longer than we thought" to finalise the agreement, talks for which started two years ago.

Finalisation of the 123 agreement has got delayed due to differences on issues like reprocessing right, perpetuity of fuel supplies and continuance of the civil nuclear cooperation if India were to conduct an atomic test.

"It is going to require a little hard work... There will be need for some compromises by both the sides to complete the deal," the US Under Secretary said, adding both sides were keen to conclude the agreement and "I am confident we will do it."

During his visit, Burns is also expected to discuss defence cooperation with Indian officials in the backdrop of Bush Administration's keen desire to enhance engagement in this field.

Washington is particularly keen to supply military hardware, including fighter planes, to India which is proposing to purchase 126 such aircraft.

Terrorism and regional issues are also expected to be discussed.

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