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India needs more time to firm it up, says US

US still believes a landmark nuclear accord with India can be salvaged even though Indian PM admits opposition to the deal.
AFP | By HT Correspondent, Washington
UPDATED ON OCT 18, 2007 01:12 AM IST

The United States still believes a landmark nuclear accord with India can be salvaged even though Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admits opposition while pushing the controversial agreement within his coalition government.

"It's not dead," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said after Singh had a telephonic conversation with President George W Bush late on Monday and conveyed to him that "certain difficulties" had arisen in implementing the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement.

It was evident from Singh's admission that he has yielded under pressure from CPM and other Left-wing parties, as he had been earlier pushing for the conclusion of the deal as his key foreign policy achievement.

Fratto said India needed to be given time to digest the deal that had been agreed upon more than two years ago by Bush and Singh as a key component of a strategic partnership between the two countries.

"India is a thriving democracy and they have work to do. They may need some additional time on their end to get their part of this deal done. The President is willing and is very understanding that the Indians may need more time for this. But no, it's not dead," he said.

"The US State Department hoped India would move forward with the agreement, which it wanted completed by 2008. The United States has worked very hard and has met its commitments under the agreement and we are going to continue to work hard to fulfill it," said Tom Casey, a department spokesman. He pointed out that Washington did not want to interfere in India's internal politics.

Opponents of the deal in the ruling Indian coalition are worried that traditionally non-aligned India is getting too close to Washington, and that the government may be compromising the future development of the country's nuclear weapons program.

Left-wing parties have been threatening to withdraw their support for the government in Parliament over the deal, a move that would force early elections.

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