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Political problem over nuclear deal being resolved: Pranab

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Washington on Monday.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Washington on Monday.

Washington will continue to work on the deal: Condoleezza Rice

Washington: Facing timelines, India and the U.S. on Monday waffled on the civilian nuclear deal with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee saying there was some “political problem” domestically and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asserting Washington would “continue” to work on it.

“We are interested in implementing the landmark agreement reached. But now we have some political problem. Currently we are engaged in the process of resolving them,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after a 30-minute meeting here with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Minister is expected to have a separate meeting with President George Bush.

Mr. Mukherjee, on his first bilateral visit to Washington as External Affairs Minister, said his government was engaged in discussions with various political parties.

Conveying Washington’s desire to take the deal forward, Ms. Rice said it was a “landmark agreement which is good for both sides....we will continue to work on that agreement.”

On negotiations with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards agreement, Mr. Mukherjee said the discussions were over. “The agreement is yet to be initialled and approved by the board of governors of the IAEA.”

India needs to firm up the agreement with the IAEA and secure changes in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) to enable nuclear commerce with it.

The Left parties, stoutly opposing the deal in its present form, have threatened to withdraw support to the government if steps were taken to operationalise it.

The U.S. has nudged India into concluding the agreement with the IAEA and seek NSG waiver by May to give the Congress time to have a final vote on the deal.

Monday’s meeting was devoted to regional affairs, Ms. Rice said.

Mr. Mukherjee complimented Ms. Rice for transforming Indo-U.S. relations, and spoke of growing ties in the realm of trade, agriculture and science and technology.

There was also “momentum in defence ties and peaceful exploration of outer space,” he said.

“We agreed to maintain the positive momentum” he said, in reference to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the U.S. and President George Bush’s India visit.

Mr. Mukherjee also called for closer working relations between the External Affairs Ministry and the U.S. State Department. — PTI

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