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US, India discuss terms for possible nuke pact

Condoleezza Rice said sticking points remained in the way of an agreement and singled out one particularly contentious subject.

india Updated: Mar 01, 2006 08:54 IST

The United States and India were bargaining over the terms of a landmark nuclear agreement even as US President George W Bush flew to New Delhi for the first visit there of his presidency.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said sticking points remained in the way of an agreement and singled out one particularly contentious subject.

"The one thing that is absolutely necessary is that any agreement would assure that once India has decided to put a reactor under safeguard that it remain permanently under safeguard," she said.

Rice and national security advisor Stephen Hadley briefed reporters on Air Force One as Bush flew from Washington. He was due to arrive in Indiaon Wednesdayevening.

The provision Rice cited would prevent India from transferring a reactor from civilian to military status, thus exempting it from international inspections.

Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed an agreement in July that would provide India with nuclear fuel for the country's booming but energy-starved economy.

The pact, which faces political opposition in both countries, hinges on determining how to separate India's civilian and military nuclear facilities.

Rice said she was uncertain whether there would be an agreement during Bush's trip but said the success or failure of his visit wouldn't be determined by that.

"We're still working on it," she said. "Obviously it would be an important breakthrough" for the United States and India.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 08:35 IST