US hails Mukherjee's statement on nuke test moratorium

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Washington, Sep 6 (UNI) The Bush Administration has welcomed as "very significant" External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement, reaffirming a voluntary moratorium on nuclear tests.

"The Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) representatives welcomed this statement," State Department's Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement yesterday. "And we think the statement will give some positive momentum to the discussions in our efforts to bring about an exception for India." "Is it your understanding that that statement actually does anything in terms of adding to the binding commitment that India operates under, or does it just really essentially just restate the voluntary moratorium on testing," the Spokesman was asked.

In reply, Wood said, "the statement refers to a number of commitments India has made. I'd recommend that you read the statement. It is, I believe, a public document." A correspondent drew his attention to "some people" at the 45-nation NSG meeting in Vienna who felt that the Indian pledge did not go far enough and wanted the U S interpretation of Mukherjee's statement.

Wood responded by saying that a number of countries had some questions about 2005 U S-India civil nuclear agreement and both the Government of India and the United States had tried to address some of those concerns.

The U S Spokesman said, "the meetings are ongoing in Vienna right now, and we'll just have to see how those turn out. But obviously, we're aware of those concerns that have been raised. And you know, the Government of India is trying to do that. And I think the Indian Foreign Minister's issuance of this, you know, document, I think, was an attempt to address some of those [questions]." Wood said the Indian and U S efforts had been to try to assure people that "this agreement is a very important agreement in terms of promoting the international community's agenda with regard to non-proliferation. So, there will continue to be discussions about these concerns, and we and the Indians, we will try to address them as best we can." UNI XC NC ND1230

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