Mukherjee, Rice to ink 123 Friday

October 9th, 2008 - 9:24 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 9 (IANS) With the US enabling law on the India-US civil nuclear deal in place, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will ink the bilateral 123 agreement here Friday.The historic agreement opening nuclear trade between the two countries that was over three years in the making would be signed in the Benjamin Franklin Room of State Department at 4 p.m. Friday (1:30 a.m. IST Saturday), an official spokesman announced.

“This follows on the President’s signature today of implementing legislation in the United States,” said department spokesman Sean McCormack hours before President George Bush signed the enabling law Wednesday. “I know it has been much anticipated. It certainly has been here.”

Asked if he could explain why the 123 agreement could not be signed when Rice was in New Delhi last weekend, he stuck to his earlier refrain that the bill “had to be enrolled” describing it as “a necessary step that had to be taken before we felt we were able to move forward with the signature of the US-India agreement.”

“That didn’t take place in the timeframe that we were in India. And the Friday date is really one that is mutually convenient for Foreign Minister Mukherjee, who is flying all the way to the United States, and we appreciate that, and for Secretary Rice as well,” McCormack said.

Asked to comment on Indian media reports that New Delhi was seeking assurances regarding fuel supplies and reprocessing of spent fuel before signing the agreement, the official insisted that “from our perspective, it centred solely on this technicality of our needing to move through some bureaucratic steps.”

At the White House, Press Secretary Dana Perino said before the White House ceremony Bush “looks forward to signing this bill into law and continuing to strengthen the US-India strategic partnership that he’s worked very hard on since becoming President.”

“This legislation will strengthen our global nuclear non-proliferation efforts and create jobs, assist India in meeting its growing energy needs in a responsible manner, and also help us deal with environmental challenges from electricity needs,” she added.

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