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US Reports Progress, But No Deal in India Nuclear Talks


The U.S. State Department is reporting significant progress, but still no final agreement on a landmark U.S.-India nuclear cooperation deal. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department senior diplomats of the two sides held a third day of talks in Washington.

Officials are claiming that the U.S. and Indian teams have, as one U.S. diplomat put it, "broken the logjam" on problem issues in the long-running talks.

But they say the three days of negotiations are coming to an end without a definitive agreement, and the results of the talks here will have to be reviewed at the top level of the two governments before any deal is finalized.

President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the controversial deal in principle in July of 2005.

It calls for India, a declared nuclear-weapons state, to open its civilian nuclear facilities to international inspection in exchange for access to U.S. civilian nuclear technology and fuel.

Efforts to finalize the deal have hit a number of snags, with India objecting to U.S. demands that it not conduct any further nuclear weapons tests and to curbs placed on its reprocessing of nuclear fuel.

In a talk with reporters, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey gave an upbeat assessment of the talks, but at the same time cautioning reporters against any expectation of a final agreement from the current round, which had been extended for an extra day.

"I think they have had a couple of good days of discussions. Again, they added these extra discussions this morning," he said. "The way these things go, you get to logical points where you need to stop and take a pause for a little bit, assess where you are, look at any outstanding issues, check with your capitals or check with your superiors and things. But again, I think we have made some good progress. There is goodwill on both sides and a desire to reach this agreement."

Casey gave no specific timeframe, but said U.S. officials are very hopeful remaining issues can be hammered out "in the coming days and weeks."

A senior diplomat said the results of this week's meetings would be reviewed at the top levels of both governments and with senior members of the U.S. Congress, which still must approve key elements of a final package.

The India deal has bipartisan support in Congress though some members say nuclear cooperation with India, which has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, undermines U.S. efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns led the U.S. team in this week's meetings, while the Indian side included Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan.

The Indian officials met White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley on Wednesday, the second anniversary of the nuclear framework agreement.