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Indian Envoy Upbeat on US Nuclear Pact, Bush Visit

A senior Indian envoy said on Thursday he was confident India and the United States would be able to implement a new civilian nuclear cooperation deal that critics say could harm efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

After two days of talks with senior US officials and lawmakers, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told reporters he was "going back very encouraged by the environment with regard to the implementation of this agreement."

"We came to the conclusion that we should be in the position to make a significant advance on this initiative before the visit of President Bush," he said, referring to the US leader's plans to visit India in early 2006.

At a landmark summit on July 18, US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a deal that would give India access to nuclear technology, including fuel and reactors, that it has been denied for 25 years.

The agreement, which must be approved by the US Congress, commits India to place nuclear facilities associated with its civilian energy program under international inspection.

Non-proliferation experts and some US lawmakers have criticized Bush's decision to end Washington's two-decade-long policy of denying India access to nuclear technology. India rejects the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and has developed nuclear weapons in a race with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

In a two-day visit to Washington, Saran met with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar and senior Pentagon and Department of Energy officials.

While sounding upbeat, Saran did not give details about how Washington and New Delhi would implement the nuclear deal. He said a second round of talks would be held in India next month.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters the Bush administration would ask Congress to change US laws to facilitate the atomic deal once India presented a plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear programs.

"When we have a plan that is able to be implemented, in our view, then that's the point at which we would go to the Congress to ask for some changes in the law," he said.

(Chinadaily.com via agencies December 23, 2005)

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