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PM assures Obama that US nuke firms need not worry
Says India will address their concerns on N-liability

Bali, November 18
Contending that there were "no irritants whatsoever" in Indo-US ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told President Barack Obama that India had gone "some way" to allay the concerns of US firms by notifying rules for nuclear business and any specific grievance would be addressed within the "four corners" of Indian laws.

The issue came up during the over one-hour meeting between Manmohan Singh and Obama here against the backdrop of apprehensions among US firms that Indian liability laws were not supplier friendly.

"I explained to him (Obama) that we have a law in place. Rules have been formulated. These rules will lie before our Parliament for 30 days. Therefore, we have gone some way to respond to the concerns of American companies and within the four corners of the law of the land we are willing to address any specific grievances," Singh told reporters after his meeting with Obama.

The rules, which were notified on Wednesday, make it clear among other things that there would be no unlimited or unending liability on part of the suppliers.

The Prime Minister said he had also told Obama that India was ready to ratify the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC), another issue that the US wants to be done as part of implementation of the civil nuclear deal. "That's where the matter stands," he said.

Sources said the issue came up during the course of review of implementation of decisions taken by the two sides. They claimed that Obama did not respond and merely "noted" the Prime Minister's statement.

Under the Rules of Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Act, foreign suppliers of nuclear material to Indian nuclear power plants would not be held liable for accidents caused by defective or faulty equipment supplied by them if the accident takes place after a guarantee period specified by them.

During the meeting, the first since Obama visited India last November, the two leaders also talked about strengthening the bonds of strategic ties put in place during the historic visit.

I am very happy to report to you that there are today no irritants whatsoever in our working together in a multiplicity of areas, both bilateral, regional and global issues," the Prime Minister told Obama as they met.

The two leaders also discussed issues related to the region as well as Manmohan Singh's recent meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Maldives and steps being taken to improve bilateral ties.

In the context of regional situation, the Prime Minister and Obama discussed Afghanistan. He apprised the US President about President Hamid Karzai's visit to India and the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed between the two countries.

Issues related to Iran's nuclear programme were also discussed in the backdrop of damning report of the IAEA Director General, with the Prime Minister saying the issue should be dealt with diplomatically.

Asked whether the two leaders discussed the agreement between the US and Australia under which American troops would be placed in Australia, Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs evaded a direct reply but said India wants the centrality of ASEAN in security of the region to be maintained. Any peace process in East Asia should be ASEAN-led, he added.

Asked whether the dispute over South China Sea came up during the meeting with Obama, Sanjay replied that the leaders discussed "maritime security". PTI

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US defence chief goofs up

Washington: In an apparent slip, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta seemed to bracket China and India as "threats" but the Pentagon quickly retracted the remarks, saying Washington strongly values close ties with New Delhi. Panetta put his foot in the mouth as he departed from prepared text during a speech at a shipyard in Connecticut, where he said, "We face the threats from rising powers - China, India, others - that we have to always be aware of and try to make sure that we always have sufficient force protection out there in the Pacific to make sure they know we're never going anywhere."

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