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US Official Holds Talks with India on Nuclear Deal

A top U.S. official says the United States is committed to implementing a landmark nuclear deal that will give India access to civilian nuclear technology. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns has concluded two days of talks with Indian officials in New Delhi.

At the end of his talks, U.S Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said the nuclear deal being negotiated between India and the United States is complex and difficult, but both sides are working to resolve the details.

Both countries want to hammer out the deal by the time President Bush visits India some time either late next month or early March.

Mr. Burns says he hopes the agreement will be in place in the not-too-distant future.

"We remain hopeful that we will be able to achieve this agreement," Burns said. "It is a very difficult undertaking and it is a unique undertaking. I am not sure any two governments have actually had negotiations quite like this, and there is a complexity and difficulty to these talks which is inherent in the subject."

In a major policy shift, the United States last July signed a controversial nuclear deal with New Delhi agreeing in principle to provide nuclear technology and equipment for India's civilian energy program.

In exchange for the nuclear technology which India had been long denied, New Delhi will have to separate its civilian and nuclear programs and allow international inspection of its atomic facilities. The talks in New Delhi focused on how to accomplish that task.

The agreement will also have to be ratified by the U.S. Congress before it can be implemented. But Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran hoped that a ground swell of goodwill for India in the United States will enable the deal to go through.

Both countries also discussed the issue of Iran, which the West suspects is using its nuclear program to build atomic weapons.

Mr. Burns accused Iran of overstepping the limits of international law in seeking to pursue what he called its nuclear ambitions and called it a threat to peace. He said Iran should be referred to the Security Council for action.

However, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran says New Delhi is in favor of building a broad international consensus on the issue.

"It stands to reason that India which has with Iran a very close, long-standing and what we call a civilizational relationship with its people, we would not like to see a situation of confrontation developing in a region that is very close to India and therefore our advise has always been confrontation should be avoided," said Saran.

Despite their differences, both sides stressed that they share a close and warm relationship.