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'US and India fail to reach agreement'

"We would like to get it before the trip," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said. "If we can, great. If we can't, we'll continue to negotiate it after the trip."

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 10:19 IST

After two days of intense negotiations, the United States said on Friday it had failed to reach agreement with India on the separation of its civilian and military nuclear programmes but still hoped for an accord before President George W Bush visits New Delhi next week.

But the White House said the success or failure of Bush's trip does not hang on the nuclear agreement.

"We would like to get it before the trip," National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said. "If we can, great. If we can't, we'll continue to negotiate it after the trip."

Bush departs for India on Tuesday and his official schedule there begins on Thursday. The president also will visit Pakistan before flying back Saturday.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns spent two days in difficult talks in New Delhi and returned home on Friday to report on the negotiations.

"We're making progress, but we're not yet there," Hadley said at a briefing on Bush's trip. "The Indians, hopefully, will have an opportunity from their end to see where we are, and we would expect those negotiations will continue by phone, document and the like probably up to the President's visit."

Hadley described Bush's trip as "a forcing function" to get an agreement. Both sides want an agreement, he said, but "it's important to have a good agreement that works for the Indians, works for the United States, will be acceptable to our Congress and to the Nuclear Suppliers Group."

The nuclear cooperation agreement has been billed as the cornerstone of a warming US-India alliance.

There is opposition in India to opening the country's secretive nuclear industry. In the United States, critics argue that the administration is rewarding bad behaviour since India has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and defied the world by conducting nuclear weapons tests in 1998. Any agreement faces stiff opposition in Congress.

Asked what was blocking an agreement, Hadley said, "It's just getting some clarification from the Indian side about what's in the civil side and what's on the military side. Not only in terms of what exists now, at this time, but what are going to be the ground rules going forward. There's a lot of technical aspects to it."

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 04:46 IST