India, France may ink civil nuclear accord during PM's Paris visit

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New Delhi, Sept 12 (UNI) India and France may sign a civil nuclear cooperation agreement during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Paris at the end of this month.

An indication for the possibility of such an agreement being inked was given by French Ambassador to India Jerome Bonnafont at a press conference here today.

''The agreement is technically ready, and now we have to complete some procedure. We are discussing with India the time of signing,'' said the Ambassador.

He said he was today called by the Ministry of External Affairs here to discuss the preparations for Dr Singh's coming visit to France. The bilateral and European aspect of the visit were taken up during the meeting with the MEA, he said.

Mr Bonnafont said his country's civil nuclear energy cooperation with India would be very comprehensive.

Replying to a question, Mr Bonnafont sought to remind that the foundations for a civil nuclear cooperation with India had already been laid during French President Sarkozy's visit to New Delhi, and now the IAEA decision had made it possible.

Describing India as a ''very responsible country'', he said even though it had not signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, it was better that there was now a mechenism for cooperation with India in the field of civil nuclear energy, which would meet the country's growing energy needs while helping the world targets of reducing the gasses responsible for climate change.

It has been a long process to conceive such a system, which would be of interest to India and the world, he added.

Referring to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement on the nuclear issue made just a day before the NSG waiver came, Mr Bonnafont said the commitments made by India on September 5 were very important and that formed the basis for the nuclear suppliers consensus waiver in favour of India.

''Now we have to see implementation of the process,'' he added.

The French Ambassador said his country had been very active in explaining to NSG members why exemption for India was required and why it would be a wise decision.

''The end of this process is the beginning of a new chapter in which France very much desires to be a key partner with India,'' he said.

UNI NAZ BDP UCS1815

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