Senate Committee approval raises hopes about Nuke deal

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New York, Sep 25 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left here for Washington today for talks with US President George Bush, amid speculation on whether the Indo-US nuclear deal would be concluded.

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, including the civilian nuclear initiative.

The Prime Minister, who will be on a 'working visit' to Washington, has said he is hopeful that the deal would be concluded.

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 RP HS1813

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