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Nicholas Burns arrives tonight to discuss 'N' deal, Bush visit

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Feb 22 (UNI) India and the US will make last ditch efforts over the next three days to remove any hiccups in the July 18 civilian nuclear agreement even as senior officials of the two countries will prepare ground for President George Bush's visit here from March one-three.

Officials said US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns will arrive here tonight on a four-day visit for discussions to advance the new strategic partnership between the two countries and prepare for President Bush's visit.

The visit of Mr Burns is aimed at efforts to resolve the technical matters that divide the Indian and the US negotiating teams on the ticklish issue of separation of India's civilian and military nuclear facilities.

Mr Burns who arrives from Vienna, will meet Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and other senior government officials to discuss the President's visit and further implementation of the initiatives agreed upon in the July 18 Joint Statement, a US embassy statement said.

He will be in India till February 25.

Mr Burns has said that both India and the US were ''90 per cent of the way'' and had only ''10 per cent'' to go.

''This has been a uniquely complicated negotiation between two equal parties. But we are committed to it. And as long as both of us show flexibility in the details, I'm confident that we will come to an agreement,'' he was quoted as having said.

Mr Burns arrives here two days after India and France signed a 'Declaration' for cooperation for developing Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Purposes. However, signing on an 'Agreement' is pending subject to clearance of the July 18 Indo-US Deal by the powerful 44-nation nuclear lobby--the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

France is an important member of the NSG which has crucial influence on the successful implementation of the July 18 Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Energy Agreement.

Mr Burns travelled over the weekend to Moscow for a meeting of the G-8 Political Directors.

As preparation for the July St. Petersburg G-8 Summit, the Under Secretary of State and his counterparts discussed a variety of cross-cutting issues like non-proliferation, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics.

He also discussed regional issues including West Asia, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan/Darfur.

The Under Secretary held bilateral consultations with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak.

UNI RB PA KN1922

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