No China oppn to the Indo-US nuke deal: US

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Washington, Dec 14: The Bush administration has virtually ruled out the possibility of China opposing the US-India civilian nuclear cooperation deal that lifts the 30-year-old ban on the supply of American nuclear fuel and technology to India.

''I would be very surprised if China tried to block the deal. I don't think it will,'' Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns told newspersons in teleconference yesterday.

Mr Burns, who was in New Delhi last week for consultations with Indian officials, said Beijing, understood the rationale behind the agreement. ''I think China understands how strategically important India is and the wisdom of this arrangement.'' He said he had never heard from Chinese officials that they intended to block the agreement endorsed by the US Congress last week - the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority and the Senate by a consensus.

According to media reports, China has opposed the deal, saying that it would weaken the existing international safeguards against proliferation.

Its foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying that the deal came at a time when the international community was working to enhance the authority and effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime.

The agreement now awaits the approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a body that sets guidelines for the global nuclear trade. China is a member of the NSG.

Mr Burns said the deal passed by the US Congress would have a have a 'galvanizing effect' on the NSG.

''It is a very powerful message to the NSG countries that the US is going to push very hard for India and be India's champion at the NSG,'' he said.

During his stay in New Delhi, Mr Burns had communicated to the Indian government on behalf of US President George W Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the United States would meet all the commitments it had made in the July 2005 statement.

In response questions referring to media reports suggesting that the Indian left parties had declined to discuss the deal with him, he maintained that such reports were 'erroneous'.

Mr Burns said he was not aware that they had decided against meeting him, nor did he seek a meeting with them.

Mr Bush will sign the bill, concerning the nuclear deal, into a law at a brief White House ceremony on Monday. Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans last night said he would be present at the signing ceremony. During the discussion in the House on the bill, Mr Ackerman, lent a powerful support to the measure.


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