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Manmohan hopeful about nuclear deal


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday said "serious negotiations" were going on with the US to implement the civilian nuclear deal and expressed hope the two sides will be able to eventually clinch the 123 bilateral agreement.

"I am hopeful. We are in for serious negotiations. Talks are going on," Manmohan Singh said here on the sidelines of a function in the Rashtrapati Bhavan to induct a new minister from Tamil Nadu in his council of ministers.

He said this when he was asked whether there were roadblocks in the negotiations between India and the US over the 123 agreement that will lead to the resumption of civilian nuclear cooperation between the two sides after a gap of nearly three decades.

US' chief negotiator on the nuclear deal Nicholas Burns's postponement of his proposed visit to India scheduled for next week has sparked speculation about the 123 negotiations not being on track.

The two sides are trying to sort out differences over New Delhi's right to testing and access to reprocessing technology and Washington's insistence on right of return of nuclear fuel and equipment in the event of India conducting a nuclear test.

Burns will come to India only after these issues have been resolved so that at least a workable text of 123 agreement is in place before Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush meet on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Germany next month.

Earlier this month, Bush had telephoned Manmohan Singh to give an added political push to the 123 pact that will be the sole legal document governing civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

The external affairs ministry Thursday said that "no particular date has yet been finalised" for the visit of Burns to New Delhi for talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon to iron out "some" remaining issues. "We are in the process of exchanging suggestions and examining them," the ministry said.

On May 1, after talks between Menon and Burns in Washington, both sides claimed extensive progress in their negotiations over the 123 agreement, named after section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act.

Burns spoke to Menon Wednesday to discuss finer points regarding the wording of the text of the 123 agreement.

"We would like to do it sooner rather than later, but these are important issues. They're important issues for us. They're important issues for India," the state department said in Washington Thursday.

The State Department also clarified that Burns will visit New Delhi and do what is "appropriate and most effective" to get the deal done.