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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Indian cabinet backs nuclear deal
Bhabha reactor in India
Energy hungry India needs nuclear power
The Indian government says that it has reached agreement with the United States on implementing a controversial civilian nuclear co-operation accord.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said all of India's concerns had been met following talks between the two sides.

He spoke after the cabinet had approved technical aspects of the deal, which gives India access to US technology.

The agreement was reached in principle two years ago but has been mired in negotiations over the details.

Nuclear tests

The final agreement must still clear several hurdles before it takes effect.

Correspondents say India's government must also persuade its left-wing allies to back the deal, although formal approval by parliament is not required.

The communists - who are not in the cabinet but support the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - have been bitterly critical, as have India's opposition parties.

India has 14 reactors in commercial operation and nine under construction
Nuclear power supplies about 3% of India's electricity
By 2050, nuclear power is expected to provide 25% of the country's electricity
India has limited coal and uranium reserves
Its huge thorium reserves - about 25% of the world's total - are expected to fuel its nuclear power programme long-term
Source: Uranium Information Center

Under the deal, India would get access to US civilian nuclear technology if it opens its facilities to inspection.

Critics say the accord will encourage India to develop its nuclear arsenal.

They also say it sends the wrong message to countries like Iran, whose nuclear ambitions Washington opposes.

But supporters of the accord say it will help India meet its soaring energy demands by reversing three decades of US sanctions imposed after nuclear tests carried out by India in 1974 and 1998.

Negotiations over the fine print of the deal have been going on in Washington and Delhi for months.

July 2005: India and the US announce the deal
March 2006: Deal 'finalised' in Delhi during visit of US President George W Bush
July 2006: US House of Representatives approves deal
November 2006: US Senate votes in favour of deal
July 2007: Indian cabinet approves the deal

Correspondents say the final details were hammered out last week in Washington in negotiations attended by the Indian national security adviser, MK Narayanan, and Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

The implementation agreement, or "123 agreement", is designed to include all operational aspects of the deal, which its supporters say will galvanise strategic ties between the world's two biggest democracies.

Delays in finally agreeing the deal have been attributed to concern in India over the possibility of Washington suspending co-operation and demanding the return of atomic fuel if Delhi tests nuclear weapons in future.

Before it takes effect, the finalised deal must be approved by the US Congress, while India needs clearance from the Nuclear Suppliers Group of countries.

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