The State Department says its third-ranking official, William Burns,
will head the U.S. team in critical talks later this week in Vienna on
India's nuclear program. The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, the
NSG, must approve a key element of the landmark U.S. Indian nuclear
cooperation accord. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State
The decision to send Undersecretary of State for
Political Affairs Burns to the NSG meeting, normally a working-level
forum, reflects the urgency of the Bush administration effort to get
final approval for the Indian nuclear deal by the end of the year.
nuclear accord reached by President Bush and Indian President Monmohan
Singh in 2005 would give New Delhi access to U.S. civilian nuclear
technology despite its nuclear weapons program, while opening
non-military Indian nuclear sites to international inspections.
before the U.S. Congress can give the deal final approval, it had to be
cleared by both the International Atomic Energy Agency and the NSG,
which governs global trade in reactors and nuclear fuel.
IAEA gave its assent to an inspections plan early last month. But an
NSG meeting two weeks ago ended inclusively with several member
countries demanding changes to insure that Indian access to nuclear
markets would not enhance its weapons program.
The United States
will submit a revised plan to the NSG when it reconvenes Thursday and
officials here say Burns and State Department arms control chief John
Rood, who will both attend the Vienna meeting, have been lobbying
reluctant countries to support it.
At a news briefing, State
Department Spokesman Sean McCormack declined to forecast approval of
the revised draft but said U.S. officials strongly believe it merits
NSG support. "We've talked to a lot of those very states. I'm not going
to name names. But we've talked to a lot of them and they've announced
themselves publicly what their concerns are. We have made, without
getting into a lengthy discussion about it, the assessment that this is
in our interest, and it's in the interests of India to develop civilian
nuclear energy while providing some assurances regarding
non-proliferation activities," he said.
Without early NSG
approval, the U.S. Congress may run out of time for final ratification
of the India deal before it adjourns at the end of this month for the
November election campaign.
If the House and Senate do not act
before then, the deal faces an uncertain future in the next Congress,
which may be more solidly controlled by Democrats critical of an
arrangement they say undercut U.S. non-proliferation policy.
officials, who contend the deal means increased scrutiny of the Indian
nuclear program, say failure to act would mean lucrative nuclear deals
with India going to firms in Russia and France rather than the United