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Rice Eyes US-India Nuclear Deal This Year

Despite several rounds of talks, India has stood fast against accepting any curbs on its reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) June 27, 2007
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that a "historic" nuclear energy pact with India could be clinched this year with enough commitment from both sides. "Had this been easy, it would have been done a long time ago," Rice told the US-India Business Council, while trumpeting the deal's benefits both to fast-growing India's energy needs and to US nuclear companies.

"I myself am dedicated to getting it done, and we need to get it done by the end of the year," she said.

India and the United States have been discussing the fine print of the accord for two years after Washington agreed in principle to reverse three decades of US sanctions on nuclear trade with India.

The outlines of the deal, described by Rice as "historic and pathbreaking," were agreed even though New Delhi refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and had tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

Under the deal, India is to separate nuclear facilities for civilian and military use and set up a regime of international inspections in return for technology and nuclear fuel supplies.

Despite several rounds of talks, India has stood fast against accepting any curbs on its reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

India also wants assurances that Washington will continue to supply fuel for its atomic plants in the event New Delhi conducts further nuclear weapons tests.

"I feel that we have strong commitments on the part of both governments because we have strong commitment on the part of our leaders," Rice said.

India is "a country for whom economic development cannot afford to slow" and needs new energy sources to maintain growth without contributing to global warming, she said.

Aside from inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), India must also agree to demands for export and non-proliferation safeguards by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.

India has proposed to set up a special unit to reprocess spent atomic fuel under international safeguards in a bid to close the US deal, the Press Trust of India reported this month.

The proposal was reportedly offered by Indian officials on the margins of a Group of Eight summit in Germany, at which Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush held talks.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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