Special Correspondent

Details of dialogue not divulged

Contents of discussions to be reported to Governments May have focused on permanent ban on future testing Next round to be held fairly soon

NEW DELHI: India and the United States on Wednesday ended three-day talks here on the proposed civilian nuclear agreement on a positive note.

"The talks ended on a positive and constructive note," said an official. Both sides refused to divulge details but indicated that they would report the contents on reaching a common position to their governments before making them public.

"The goal is to finish the talks as soon as possible but the issues on the table are very complex. However, we are satisfied with the talks," said a source.

Aimed at complying with Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, the next round of talks would be held "fairly soon," the official said.

The `123 Agreement' will then set the stage for the civilian nuclear agreement, whose contours were agreed upon by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President George W.Bush on July 18 last.

The U.S. has to sign the `123 Agreement' with another country before inking a long-term pact to export nuclear technology and fuel. India is bargaining for more flexible stipulations than those laid down in the U.S. Atomic Energy Act.

Supply of fuel

Discussions are understood to have focussed on a permanent ban on future nuclear tests and guaranteed supply of nuclear fuel from the U.S. India is believed to have pointed out that it unilaterally declared a moratorium on nuclear testing eight years ago and is resisting a binding assurance. It is more amenable to accepting conditions on curbing export of proliferation technology to other countries.

The two sides exchanged their versions of the agreement during the meeting between Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns in London last month.

The Indian team, led by Joint Secretary (America) in the Ministry of External Affairs S. Jai Shankar, comprises officials from the Department of Atomic Energy. The U.S. side is led by Richard Stratford, Director in the Bureau of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security in the State Department, and comprises representatives from the Departments of State and Energy, besides the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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