M A I N   N E W S

Signing of N-deal put off for now
India is not keen to sign the deal without reading the draft
of the statement to be made by President Bush
while signing the legislation into a law
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 4
There is many a slip between the cup and the lip. The proverb seems to be proving true as far as the Indo-US nuclear deal is concerned.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee met at the majestic Hyderabad House here this afternoon and discussed a wide range of issues, but failed to sign the 123 agreement to operationalise the historic pact as was widely expected to be done.

New Delhi made it clear to the US that it would sign the deal only after President
George W. Bush signs it into a law, an occasion when it expects certain misgivings
to be cleared.

However, Rice told media persons at a joint press conference with Mukherjee after the talks that there was no hitch now in signing the agreement and it was only due to procedural matters that the inking of the pact had been delayed.

“I don’t think we have any open issue now. The deal will be signed soon.”

She explained that President George W. Bush would soon sign the nuclear cooperation agreement passed by the US Congress into a law.

“There are administrative details. It’s been a busy time. The Bill has to be encoded and transmitted to the White House,” Rice, a key US interlocutor for the nuclear deal, replied when asked why the 123 pact could not be signed yet.

Mukherjee, on his part, also stated that the two countries would be in a position to sign the agreement after the Bill was converted into a law by the US President.

“The process is complete. We will be in a position to sign the agreement at a mutually convenient date shortly and move on to the commercial arrangements.”

Asked if the deal could not be signed today because of certain concerns of India, especially about fuel supplies, Rice said “the 123 agreement is consistent with the Hyde Act.”

The Bush administration would abide by all its commitments while formally inking the deal.

However, it is learnt that India was not keen to sign the deal without reading the
draft of the statement to be made by President Bush while signing the legislation
into a law.

India has serious concerns about some of the statements that had emanated from Washington in recent days, particularly about fuel supplies not being legally binding and the availability of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology.

Until late last night, there were intensive discussions between the two sides to see if the deal could be signed.

However, New Delhi stood firm on its view that the signing of the agreement should be preceded by the statement of President Bush.

On whether there was any disagreement between the two sides on the question of ENR technology, the US secretary of state preferred to give an ambiguous reply, saying Washington had even asked the nuclear suppliers’ group (NSG) to evolve a global approach to deal with the matter.

The Indian minister, however, hastened to add that with the NSG giving its nod to India to undertake nuclear commerce, New Delhi would now be in a position to give expression to its views while finalising the details of enabling agreements for energy cooperation it would sign with members of the 45-strong cartel.

Mukherjee and Rice had nearly 90-minute talks during what is being described as the “farewell” visit by the US dignitary before the Bush administration demits office.

Mukherjee was assisted by foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon, Indian ambassador to the US Ronen Sen and Prime Minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran.

The US side included US ambassador to India David C. Mulford and State Department officials.

Later, Rice called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani. She leaves here early tomorrow morning.




Bush to sign Bill on Oct 8

Washington, October 4
US President George W. Bush will sign the legislation on the Indo-US nuclear deal, approved by the Congress, into a law on October 8, the White House said today.

Bush will sign the Bill H R 7081, named after Howard Berman, a Democrat who was strongly opposed to the deal on non-proliferation grounds but was brought around to accepting it recently, at the White House.

“The President cordially invites you to the Signing of H.R. 7081, United States India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Non-proliferation Enhancement Act,” reads an invitation sent out by the White House.

Ever since the Senate passed the legislation on October 1, senior officials have privately maintained that Bush will be keen on having a signing ceremony in which he will have the opportunity to thank not only members of his administration, but also members of Congress and the leaders of the Indian American community. — PTI



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