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Some progress on pact to operationalise N-deal

April 22, 2007 21:48 IST

'Some progress' was made at the official level talks between India and the United States in Cape Town on a proposed bilateral agreement to operationalise the civilian nuclear deal, an official said in New Delhi on Sunday, a day after the Bush administration indicated its 'frustration' over the negotiations.

Differences, however, remain and more meetings will be required, the official told PTI in New Delhi after the latest round of talks on the '123 agreement' that spanned over five days in the South African city on the sidelines of Nuclear Supplier Group meeting.

The Indian side was led by S Jai Shanker, High Commissioner to Singapore, who has been involved in the parleys over the civilian nuclear deal. The US delegation was led by Richard Stratford, director in the Nuclear Division of the State Department.

"There was forward movement. Some progress was made," the official said, without giving details of the talks that concluded on Friday.

The comment came a day after US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in Washington that 'it is fair to say that there is some frustration on part of the (US) administration as well as the Congress on the pace of these negotiations.'

New Delhi pointed out that negotiation was a process, which was not complete till it was completed.

The process will be carried forward at a higher level when Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon travels to Washington later this month to hold talks with the US Under Secretary Nicholas Burns.

The contentious issues in the proposed agreement relate to New Delhi's right over reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and the fallout if India were to conduct an atomic test in future.

India, while noting its declared policy of unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, refuses to make it legally binding by including a clause in the 123 Agreement.

New Delhi insists that civil nuclear cooperation should not be affected if India were to conduct a nuclear test and should be treated at par with other nuclear weapon countries in this regard.

McCormack said, "Indian government has raised a series of issues in these negotiations concerning our laws and suggested solution that would require us to change our laws. And we are not going to do that. We can't do that."

Jaishanker also met officials of some NSG countries and briefed them about the deal as part of efforts to win the backing of the 45-nation grouping.

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