Indo-US nuke deal still a distant dream

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Washington, Sept 3 (UNI) The Bush government has told the US Congress that it will not sell sensitive nuclear technologies to India and end nuclear trade with it if New Delhi conducted a nuclear test.

A special correspondence, which has remained secret for nine months, was made public yesterday by Rep Howard L Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, just a couple of days ahead of the meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna tomorrow, the Washington Post reported.

The meeting has been called to consider exempting India from restrictions on nuclear trade as part of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Mr Berman's release of the correspondence could make NSG approval even more difficult because it demonstrates that US conditions for nuclear trade with India are tougher than what it is requesting from the NSG on India's behalf.

The correspondence had answers to 45 highly technical questions that members of the US Congress posed about the deal.

The answers were considered so sensitive that the US State Department requested they remain secret even though they were not classified.

Ms Lynne Weil, a spokeswoman for Mr Berman, said he made the answers public because, if NSG approval is granted, the Indo-US nuclear deal would soon be submitted to the US Congress for final approval and he wanted to assure that the Congress had the relevant information.

The NSG governs trade in reactors and uranium and its approval is necessary for further deliberations between India and the US on the landmark deal.

The group operates by consensus and allows even small nations to block or significantly amend any agreement.

The US has pressed the NSG to impose few conditions on India, even though it has tested nuclear weapons and has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

About 20 nations offered more than 50 amendments to the draft proposed by the US, with special emphasis on terminating trade and bans on the transfer of sensitive technologies if India resumes testing.

UNI XC SKB KN1912

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