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India-US N-talks in final lap
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan is all set to meet his American counterpart Stephen J. Hadley at the White House in an effort to reach the finish line in a deal that would allow civilian-nuclear cooperation between India and the US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said there were a couple of “tough issues” that both sides have yet to resolve. These include reprocessing rights for India.

At the meetings on Tuesday, the US discussed a proposal from New Delhi to build a dedicated reprocessing facility for US-origin nuclear fuel.

Earlier, McCormack said the two sides would “take stock of where we are in the negotiations of the so-called 123 Agreement.” He noted that the Indian team is a “serious high-level delegation.”

The talks, he added, are “really to try to make a push to get this agreement over the finish line.” He said the Bush administration was confident “that we can get a deal, we can get an agreement.”

“I think it really comes down to a matter of timing: When is that going to get done? This meeting will provide us a good indicator as to the answer to that question: When can we get that deal done?,” McCormack added.

Undersecretary of state R. Nicholas Burns, Washington’s point man on the deal, hosted a dinner for the delegation on Tuesday. The critical meetings today come on the second anniversary of the deal signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W. Bush at the White House.

The US Congress approved the deal late last year and Bush signed it into law in December. Congress has to pass the so-called 123 Agreement, the details of which are being negotiated this week.

India also needs to sign an additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and get the approval of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group before the deal can come into effect.

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