Amit Baruah

Calls up Manmohan from Singapore

Hopeful that Congress will move forward

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoped on Thursday that the American legislation on civilian nuclear cooperation with India would accommodate New Delhi's stated concerns.

Dr. Singh, speaking with United States President George W. Bush over phone, appreciated his commitment to passage of the legislation, now before the Senate's "lame duck" session. The Bill could come up for a full Senate vote on Friday.

Mr. Bush is now in Singapore.

"This [the telephone conversation] was an opportunity for both leaders to exchange views on current matters. They discussed the legislation relating to the India-U.S. civil nuclear cooperation understanding," an official statement said.

"The Prime Minister expressed appreciation for the President's commitment to the passage of the legislation, and hoped that the Bill, in its final form, will accommodate India's stated concerns. The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the state of bilateral relations. The conversation lasted about five minutes," it said. The Associated Press reported from Singapore that Mr. Bush telephoned Dr. Singh to reiterate support for the nuclear deal.

He told Dr. Singh "he is hopeful that Congress will move forward with the measure."

In a related development, The Washington Post reported that Congressional leaders sought a secret intelligence assessment of India's nuclear programme and New Delhi's ties with Iran in January.

"Ten months later, as the Senate prepares to vote on nuclear trade with India, the intelligence assessment has yet to be seen on Capitol Hill, Congressional and intelligence sources say," the paper said.

The Post quoted a report by the Congressional Research Service, which does in-depth analysis for Congress, as saying that India's long relationship with Iran made it unlikely that New Delhi would take a hard line on Tehran.

The report also found that entities in India and Iran "appear to have engaged in very limited nuclear, chemical and missile related transfers over the years."

Coincidentally, as Tehran cropped up again in the Indo-U.S nuclear deal, notwithstanding New Delhi casting its vote twice against that country at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki called on Dr. Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday.

An official in the Prime Minister's Office described the meeting between Mr. Mottaki and Dr. Singh a "courtesy call."

Ending an extended frosty period in the Indo-Iranian relations, in the wake of the twin IAEA votes, Dr. Singh met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana on September 15.

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