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US Official Asks India to Move Quickly to Seal Civilian Nuclear Deal


A senior American official has urged India to move quickly to wrap up a civilian nuclear deal with the United States. The request comes as India's prime minister says his government is trying to build a political consensus on the controversial agreement, which is strongly opposed by his communist allies. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher says the civilian nuclear deal between India and the United States faces a lot of "tight deadlines."

Boucher spoke to reporters Wednesday in New Delhi, where he has met Indian officials.

The deal will allow New Delhi to get access to civilian nuclear technology, even though it has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The pact still needs to get the final approval of the U.S. Congress. Before that happens, India has to conclude an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and obtain a waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Supplier Group, which regulates global civilian nuclear trade.

Boucher says all these steps need to be completed quickly so that the pact can be presented to the U.S. Congress by July, ahead of the American presidential elections.

"You start adding these things up and we are kind of playing on overtime right now. There is an awful lot of work to do and not a lot of time. So, I think everybody understands that reality and, as I said, as soon as the Indian government is ready to go ahead, we are too," Boucher said.

The deal has been held up by domestic politics in India. The Indian government's Communist allies strongly oppose the agreement because they feel it undermines India's sovereignty and have warned the government not to go ahead with it.

However, the government is holding talks with the IAEA and says it remains committed to sealing the nuclear agreement with Washington.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament Wednesday his government is trying to bring around its allies.

"We also continue to seek the broadest possible consensus within the country to enable the next step to be taken," Singh said. I believe such cooperation is good for us, for our energy security and for the world.

But it remains unclear how Prime Minister Singh will overcome opposition from his Communist allies, who have repeatedly threatened to withdraw support for the government if it goes ahead with the nuclear deal.

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