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U.S. officials say nuclear deal with India could be settled this month

U.S. officials say nuclear deal with India could be settled this month

Meetings meant to jump-start a U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear cooperation plan that has sparked frustration in both countries ended Tuesday, with the United States saying that a final agreement could be settled within this month.
India's foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, came to Washington for talks with U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns about a deal U.S. officials have portrayed as a way to transform a strategic relationship with a rising, democratic power in Asia.
"We're both confident that we can do this," Menon told reporters. "The quicker the better."
The deal cleared a major hurdle in December when Bush signed a congressionally approved exception to U.S. law to allow the shipment of civilian nuclear fuel to India. The countries must still settle technical negotiations on an overall cooperation plan, and frustration has been evident on both sides.
Neither negotiator revealed specific details of the talks, but the U.S. State Department issued a statement that said the countries expect to resolve "outstanding issues" in coming weeks and that Burns plans to travel to India this month "to reach a final agreement."
Menon was more cautious, saying only that considerable progress had been made. "We still have issues we have to settle," he said. "But I think it's doable."
Earlier Tuesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it will "require some creativity and some compromise on both sides in order to get an agreement done, if we're going to be able to move this as quickly as we would have hoped."
Some in India fear the deal could limit India's right to reprocess spent atomic fuel.
Another potential problem is a nonbinding clause, inserted by the U.S. Congress, which directs the U.S. president to determine whether India is cooperating with Washington's efforts to confront Iran's nuclear program.
While the officials met, American critics ratcheted up complaints over a plan they say would spark a nuclear arms race in Asia by allowing India to use the extra nuclear fuel that the deal would provide to free up its domestic uranium for its weapons program.
Democratic Rep. Ed Markey said the United States "gave India a sweetheart deal with the nuclear agreement and blew a hole in our nonproliferation laws in the process. Now India is saying, `That's not good enough; we want more.'"
Markey and Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher have sent a letter to President George W. Bush that expresses worry over what they say is India's "growing defense relationship" with Iran.
The lawmakers said that "continuation of an Indo-Iranian defense relationship is likely to imperil all prospects for future civil nuclear cooperation with India."
Menon said that nothing India does with Iran is in opposition to international rules.
Before nuclear trade between India and the United States could begin, several obstacles remain, including current negotiations on an overall plan, which also must be approved by Congress.
A final deal would mean U.S. civilian nuclear trade with India would be permitted in exchange for safeguards and U.N. inspections at India's 14 civilian nuclear plants. Eight military plants would be off-limits.
Congressional approval for nuclear cooperation with India is needed because U.S. law bars nuclear trade with countries that have not submitted to full international inspections. India built its nuclear weapons program outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provides civil nuclear trade in exchange for a pledge from nations not to pursue nuclear weapons.


Updated : 2021-03-08 17:44 GMT+08:00