US focused on wrapping up n-deal by September: Rice

August 26th, 2008 - 11:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 26 (IANS) The US says the “principal focus” of its policy right now is how to get its civil nuclear deal with India through the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and then present it to the Congress early September.The India deal and not the one with Russia is the current focus of America’s nuclear commerce policy, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told reporters on her way to Tel Aviv, according to a transcript released by the State Department.

“As you might imagine, our principal focus right now has been on the India civil nuclear deal, working through the NSG - or having worked through the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), now working through the NSG, and still trying to get into a position to make the appropriate presidential determinations in early September,” she said.

“So that’s our focus right now on the civil nuclear side,” Rice said when asked whether developments in Georgia will affect the US-Russia civilian nuclear deal.

The White House too made similar comments Monday about the agreement with India taking precedence over the one with Russia that was submitted to the US legislature last May.

“I think, we have another civil nuclear agreement in the queue ahead of that, that we’re really focused on right now, and that’s the India civil nuclear agreement,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters at in Crawford, Texas, near President George W. Bush’s ranch.

“And that’s generating a lot of work and time and energy on our part to get that done,” he said when asked if the administration will still press Congress for the agreement with Russia to go forward, or withdraw it in the wake of Russia’s action in Georgia.

“We were able to work that (the India deal) through the IAEA, and now working with the Nuclear Suppliers Group and trying to get that through the Nuclear Suppliers Group and eventually for presentation to our Congress,” he added.

Asked if he anticipated the Russian agreement being completed this year, Fratto said: “I can’t speculate on when or how that would get done. Like I said, we’re focused on the other civil nuclear agreement (with India) right now.”

The comments from Rice and the White House came as Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon wrapped up a day’s hectic diplomacy to save the deal in the face of objections from some nuclear suppliers.

There was no official word from either side on what transpired at Menon’s daylong meetings Monday first with his counterpart, US Undersecretary of State William Burns, and then with President Bush’s acting National Security Adviser James Geoffrey.

But the focus of Menon-Burns talks was apparently fine-tuning the language of the exemption that will accommodate concerns of sceptical NSG countries as well as interests of India before it is discussed at the second NSG meeting next month.

Shortly after his arrival here this morning, Menon accompanied by the Indian ambassador to the US, Ronen Sen, went straight into a session with Burns to discuss a waiver acceptable to the NSG without adding any new conditions. After the talks he left for New York Monday evening.

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