EAM to visit US, discuss Nuclear deal

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New Delhi, Mar 22 (UNI) With India having finalised the text of the safeguards agreement with the IAEA on the civilian nuclear deal with the US, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will visit Washington on March 24-25 for further discussions with the Bush administration.

During his two-day visit, the External Affairs Minister will call on President George W Bush and discuss bilateral, regional and international issues.

He will also have talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

''The discussions will include a review of all aspects of the Indo-US bilateral relationship,'' the External Affairs Ministry announced here this evening.

Mr Mukherjee will be accompanied by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

Sources said Mr Mukherjee will apprise the US Administration of the progress on the text of the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA.

Mr Mukherjee undertakes the journey even as the Left allies of the UPA have stepped up ante against the government, asking it to scrap the deal. However, the government has ruled out either bending or ending the deal.

The next step includes taking up the matter with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) whose nod is essential for the implementation of the Deal.

The US has said it would take up the matter with the NSG once the Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA is complete.

Many members of the NSG have reservations about India being given the nuclear concessions since it is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The US had given to India July deadline for sending it back after the IAEA negotiations so that further progress could be made before the current Bush Administration bowed out of office.

UNI RB SLD RN2201

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