Burns urges India to endorse nuke deal quickly

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Washington, Feb 29: The Bush administration wants India to make a quick ''courageous decision'' to endorse US-India civilian nuclear agreement. ''I'm afraid it's time for the government to decide. We hope the decision will be positive,'' US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told newsmen here yesterday.

He expressed his confidence that New Delhi was quite sincere in wanting to push the agreement forward. ''But, there's obviously a question of politics within the Indian coalition, and we don't want to interfere in internal affairs of the coalition in India," the American official said. Burns reiterated his administration's position that the time was running out for the deal. For the US Congress to extend its approval the complete document must reach before it by May-June.

But, before that India need to seek the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers's Group. India is still engaged in negotiations with the IAEA.

Factors that push the US to expedite the deal include the approaching end of the term of President George W Bush, who considers the agreement a major accomplishment of his administration. The new President will take over in January next year.

Mr Burns, who has been negotiating the deal on behalf of the US for the last two-and-a-half year, is retiring from the State Department next week.

Under the proposed agreement, India will get nuclear technology and fuel and in return, it will have to accept the safeguards and international inspections at its 14 civilian nuclear installations.

However, its eight military plants would not come under the inspection regime.


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