Considerable progress in nuclear deal talks: Menon

By Indo-Asian News Service,

Washington : India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon says “considerable progress” has been made in talks with US officials on the 123 agreement of the civil nuclear cooperation deal between the two countries.

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Addressing a press conference Tuesday after his meetings with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who is the chief interlocutor of the deal, Menon said they had broad-ranging discussions on the nuclear agreement as well as other topics of bilateral relations.

Replying to media queries on statements made by the US State Department about the “frustration” senior officials felt in Washington regarding the pace of the negotiations, Menon said: “We still have some issues to settle. But we will settle them soon.”

He added: “… All I can say that we have had a productive discussion with US officials and there has been considerable progress on the issue. We would be expecting Burns in India later this month where we hope to continue the discussions.”

Menon, who has been in Washington for the last two days, did not give a specific timetable for the deal to be inked, but said instead that both sides would like to settle all outstanding issues and sign the agreement as soon as possible.

“I am not willing to say where we stand today as regards to when the document will finally be signed,” he said. “What I can say is that there is a lot of keenness on completing this deal soon.”

On the issue of Iran and US objections to India’s relations with Iran, Menon said New Delhi was not doing anything to contravene any UN Security Council resolutions.

“Our relationship with Iran is just as any two sovereign states would have with each other,” he said.

The talks are aimed to get the US to agree to a position whereby the 123 pact, named after Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, will not include a ban on nuclear testing – something which is not acceptable to Washington.