No plans to change n-deal, but can’t rule it out either: US

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

Washington : The US says there are no plans to change the India-US civil nuclear deal to get a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), but would not rule out the possibility altogether.

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“There are no plans that I know of to change the agreement. But you know, in life you never rule things out,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters Tuesday.

“But it’s obviously got to be something that both the United States and India can agree to if there were going to be changes,” he said when asked if any changes were contemplated to meet the concerns of the 45-member cartel.

“But I’ve heard no mention of a need to, you know, adjust the agreement in any way,” Wood added.

The spokesman’s comments came a day after Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon’s visit to fine tune the language a waiver acceptable to the NSG without adding any new conditions.

Menon had a long session with his counterpart, US Undersecretary of State William Burns, followed by a meeting with President George W. Bush’s acting National Security Adviser James Geoffrey to work out a formulation acceptable to both NSG and India.

The nuclear cartel that controls global export of nuclear fuel and knowhow had last week failed to reach a consensus at its Vienna conclave on giving India a clean waiver in the face objections from some sceptics. It meets again Sep 4-5 to decide on the India-specific waiver.

The spokesman said the Bush administration was well aware that the Congressional clock was ticking and was working very hard to address the concerns of NSG to see the “critically important” deal through at the earliest.

“We’re working very hard. We would like to see this agreement come into fruition because it’s critically important for both the United States and India,” Wood said.

“And we are aware that the congressional clock is ticking and we are going to be consulting with other governments, particularly governments in the NSG, to try to move this process forward as quickly as we can.”

The US Congress which must approve the implementing 123 agreement after the green signal from NSG is set to adjourn Sep 26.

Admitting that some countries have a number of concerns about the India deal, he said: “But they’re good questions and we think we’ve got good answers to those”.

“We are aware that the clock is ticking, but it is a very important agreement for both countries and we want to see it happen,” he added.

Asked how the US was addressing the concerns of NSG members, Wood said it did so through discussions during the Vienna meeting of NSG and through ongoing talks with various governments about the issues.

“We’ll do our best to address those concerns, as the Indians are trying to do to address concerns that other governments may have about the agreement,” he said.

Asked if the administration was in touch with the rival Democratic and Republican presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain about the future of the deal in case it doesn’t go through by December during the current, Wood said: “I really don’t want to speculate”.

“I think we have to see how this plays out. It’s very important, as I said, to come to fruition on this agreement. And so it wouldn’t do any good for me to speculate on what may or may not happen at this point,” he said.