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N-deal: India, US hope for compromise

Indian and US negotiators struggled to bridge differences over a landmark nuclear deal in a first round of talks.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 21:41 IST
(Reuters)

Indian and US negotiators struggled to bridge differences over a landmark nuclear deal in a first round of talks on Thursday.

Both hoped for agreement when President George W Bush's visit next week.

The deal, which aims to give India access to long-denied US nuclear equipment and fuel, has run into trouble over New Delhi's plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes to prevent proliferation.

The two-day talks between US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran are being held days ahead of Bush's visit to New Delhi.

Both sides are keen to make the civilian nuclear cooperation deal the centrepiece of the visit to help cement a new friendship between the two countries, which were on opposite sides of the Cold War.

"There is no question that both of us want to complete these negotiations but there are still some remaining differences between us and those differences need to be worked out," Burns said after a first round of talks.

"We are working very hard, we want to achieve an agreement," he said, categorising the talks as "very good".

Burns pointed to Bush's speech in Washington on Wednesday when he said the Indian plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programmes -- a key requirement before the deal can be sent to US Congress for approval -- needs to be credible and transparent.

Asked if the two sides were likely to clinch the deal before Bush arrives in New Delhi next week, Burns said: "We simply don't know, we simply don't know if it will happen before President Bush's visit. We are trying our best, both sides."