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Sunday, May 9, 1999 Published at 01:38 GMT 02:38 UK

World: South Asia

India rules out test ban signing

The Thar desert where India has carried out nuclear tests

The Indian Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, has said that India will not sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by the September deadline because of the country's forthcoming general elections.

"I doubt very much that a policy initiative of this kind can be taken in the midst of elections," he said.

The BJP-led coalition lost a vote of confidence by one vote last month, sparking a political crisis which resulted in elections being called.

In May last year, both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests leading to international condemnation and US-backed economic sanctions.

The US has been pressing India and Pakistan to sign the test ban treaty.

India has held a series of talks with the US Under-Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on the issue, but so far they not yielded any agreement.

Jaswant Singh said that a further round of talks with Mr Talbott had been put on hold.

On the separate issue of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, India has ruled out signing it because it says it is discriminatory.

Last month, both India and Pakistan carried out missile tests, renewing fears of an arms race on the sub-continent.

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, had indicated that India would sign the test ban treaty before the deadline in September for the treaty to come into effect - if India's security concerns were addressed.

The treaty needs to be ratified by 44 countries - including India and Pakistan - for it to come into force; so far only 33 nations have ratified it.

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