US wants to clinch nuke deal with India as quickly as possible

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Washington, Mar 4 (UNI) The Bush Administration considers the US-India Civilian Nuclear agreement of ''historic'' nature and wants to see it concluded ''as quickly as possible''.

''We think it's in the best interests of India, the United States as well as in global nonproliferation effort,'' State Department's Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey made this statement in reply to questions at his daily briefing yesterday.

He said that the United States had acknowledged that ''there are internal political issues for the Indian Government to work out, and it's important that they have an opportunity to do so.'' But ultimately, the Indian Government needs to be fully comfortable with it and they need to be able to move things forward.

It would be a shame if this opportunity, though, for both sides was lost, and we certainly, therefore, hope that we can reach an agreement as soon as possible, Mr Casey said.

Replying to a question about the recent visit of some US Congressmen to India, during which they raised the issues with Indian officials, Casey said they had pointed out ''their concerns about, as we enter our own election cycle here, the difficulties of getting such an agreement through Congress. I'll let them handicap that aspect of the process. They know that far better than I do.'' ''But we do believe this is an important agreement, an historic agreement really, between India and the United States, and we would like to see it move forward,'' Mr Casey said.

The spokesman said Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who did leave his position on Friday, had, of course, also agreed, at Secretary Condoleezza Rice's request, to continue in a consultative capacity working on specifically this issue.

''And so I think Nick will still be very much engaged, involved in this process, and will do what he can to help see that this agreement in all its aspects does get concluded,'' he said. Mr Burns has been the main US negotiator in this deal with India from the very beginning.

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