Rice, Pranab to ink N-deal on Oct 10

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Washington, Oct 10: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will ink later on Friday, Oct 10 the US-India nuclear agreement, signed into law by President George W Bush at the White House on Wednesday, Oct 8. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, who gave this information yesterday, said Rice and Mukherjee would initial the US-India Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy (123 Agreement) today at 4:00 pm (1.30 am IST) in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the Department.

Earlier, McCormack explained that after President Bush had signed the bill which contained the accord had to be enrolled. It was a necessary step that had to be taken before ''we felt we were able to move forward with the signature of the US-India agreement,'' the Spokesman said.

''That didn't take place in the timeframe that we (Secretary Rice and other US officials) were in India. And the Friday date is really one that is mutually convenient for Foreign Minister Mukherjee, who is flying all the way to the United States, and we appreciate that, and for Secretary Rice as well,'' McCormack said.

The Spokesman said the measure could not be signed in India ''solely on this technicality of our needing to move through some bureaucratic steps.'' The measures will permit India to import nuclear technology and fuel t was denied since 1974 when New Delhi tested its first atomic device.

In return, India will accept international inspection on its non-military nuclear installations.

Meanwhile, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said that today's ''formal signing of the nuclear cooperation agreement paves the way for closer economic and political ties between the world's two largest democracies.'' Ros-Lehtinen was an original co-sponsor of the Henry J Hyde US-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act, introduced in the final days of the legislative session a House companion bill that paved the way for implementation of the nuclear agreement.

Ros-Lehtinen said, ''this is not an agreement which we would enter into with just any country. Stronger economic, scientific, diplomatic, and military cooperation between the US and India is in the national interest of both countries and reflects our increasingly close relationship with this important democratic ally.


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