Pranab, Rice discuss N-deal and Myanmar

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{image-pranab098 rice_10052008.jpg}New Delhi, May 10: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal and the situation in Myanmar following the devastating cyclone that hit the South-east Asian nation last week-end reportedly claiming more than 100,000 lives.

The conversation took place on telephone yesterday when the Secretary of State rang up Mr Mukherjee as part of a series of calls to foreign leaders to urge them to use their influence with the military junta in Myanmar to allow humanitarian supplies to the cyclone affected people, officials said here today. Although the telephone call was primarily made to discuss the Myanmar situation, the two leaders also touched upon the civilian nuclear deal. It was, however, not clear what was discussed on the nuclear issue. The Myanmar government has disallowed any foreign nationals to enter the country for distribution of relief suplies coming from all over the world although they have welcomed the relief material. US planes, carrying supplies, are in neighbouring Thailand waiting for permission for entry. However, the military junta is not allowing any foreign nationals.

The United Nations also yesterday suspended relief operations to Myanmar after the military government denied entry of foreign personnel to help in the ongoing relief operations. The Indo-US nuclear deal, which is now at a crucial stage, has to be cleared by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) before it goes back to the US Congress for final approval.

While India and the IAEA have finalised a draft agreement, the main roadblock is the NSG approval. India's domestic politics--opposition from the Left Parties--is also holding the deal back even as pressure had mount from Washington to clear the deal before the present Bush Administration bows out of power.


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