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Burns hopeful of India-US nuke deal getting through Cong

Written by: Staff

Washington, Apr 5 (UNI) US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns has said he is hopeful of the Indo-US nuclear deal getting through the American Congress as he senses a ''strong support for a new, stronger, strategic engagement'' between the countries, but is not sure whether it will take place by the end of next month.

''I think the chances are better than 50-50 that the US is going to say yes to a new strategic relations with India,'' Mr Burns told NDTV in an interview.

''We go into this looking at the glass half full, not half empty.

Optimistic not pessimistic. Determined that we're doing the right thing and therefore we should make that argument in a convincing way,'' he said.

His remarks assume significance as these come just a day ahead of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's address to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House International Relations Committee.

Mr Burns said during his talks with many of the Senators he found that ''there's very strong support for the environmental, energy and economic advantages of the civil-nuclear agreement and I think that many members are increasingly beginning to see the advantages of this deal.

Asserting that there was no chorus of opposition in the Congress, he said the debate being carried out through the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal on the issue only showed that the US had a great democracy.

''We are participating in that debate...Inside the Congress, Senators and Congressmen are asking appropriate questions and they can't just be expected to sign off on something without having had a hearing which begins today and without having been able to get the detailed answers from the American government that they're entitled to have,'' he said.

Asked whether the issue would be taken up for a vote in the US Congress before the nuclear suppliers group (NSG) meeting in May, he said it would depend on a lot of factors.

''It depends on what happens in Congress and whether additional hearings are required. It depends on the pace of the IAEA-India negotiations that have just started this week'' to finalise India-specific safeguards for New Delhi's civilian nuclear facilities, he said.

It also depended on the pace of the bilateral talks between India and the US. ''So there are lots of variables here that will factor into a decision and it would be nice to be able to meet the deadline of late May but if we don't, we simply proceed along because one can convene a meeting of the NSG in Vienna at whatever time one wishes.

So we're not captains of a calendar and this agreement will proceed at its own pace.'' However, he clarified that he did not ''think we're kind of on the balance of success, the cusp of success or failure. These things do take time. It's going to require a demicratic debate in my country as well as NSG but we're going to plug away and work on it day by day.'' Asked about the May time-frame, he said, ''Well, we want to move as quickly as we can but if the process does take longer, we'll just live with that and we'll work at it.'' UNI XC/SN VJ HT1527

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