PM arrives in Washington on day-long 'working visit'

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Washington, Sep 25 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here today on a day-long 'working visit' for talks with US President George Bush on several aspects of Indo-US relations including the civilian nuclear initiative.

Dr Singh will meet Mr Bush at the White House at 1700 hrs local time (0230 hrs Friday IST).

The Prime Minister arrived at the Andrews Air Force Base accompanied by the US Ambassador to India David Mulford and several senior officials of the US government and officials from the Indian Embassy in the US.

During the talks, Dr Singh will be accompanied by Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, National Security Advisor M K Narayanan and special envoy to the Prime Minister Shyam Saran, who have already arrived here yesterday.

The Prime Minister and the US President will meet at the Oval Office in the White House for discussions on a wide range of issues, With the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voting 19-2 in favour of the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement, the scheduled meeting between Dr Singh and Mr Bush can be expected to arrive at a conclusion.

''We are a step closer. Still some more hurdles have to be crossed even though the conclusion seems easier now,'' a senior official accompanying the Prime Minister said.

Although the Prime Minister has maintained nothing could be said for certain whether the two would conclude the deal as the US Senate is pre-occupied with the current financial crisis, he was still hopeful.

It is still not clear whether the two countries would conclude the deal even after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval.

A senior official said India was in no hurry. ''We have waited so long. We can wait longer...For us whether it is 25th, 26th or later, it does not matter.. we only hope that in the current financial crisis, the progress on the deal is not negated.'' The official said the Prime Minister and President Bush would not sign the deal.

They could conclude the discussions and the final signatures could be made later at the Ministerial level.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval came after "an original bill to approve the United States-India Agreement for Cooperation on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, and for other purposes", was added to the agenda of the committee at the last minute.

UNI RB PD NS2157

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