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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 12:21 GMT
India and Russia in energy talks
Russian PM Mikhail Fradkov and Indian PM Manmohan Singh
The Russian-Indian deal is premature, the US says
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says he is confident of greater nuclear power cooperation with Russia.

He was speaking after talks in Delhi with Russian PM Mikhail Fradkov. Russia recently agreed to sell uranium to power two Indian nuclear reactors.

Mr Fradkov said after the meeting that the sale was "in the interest of both the countries.

India says the fuel is needed to ensure that the units at the Tarapur power station operate safely.

Mr Singh thanked Russia for responding to its request for uranium.

"I am confident that both countries will utilise opportunities to expand our partnership in civil nuclear cooperation," he said at a news conference following the talks.

Russia and France have intermittently provided Delhi with uranium since the US stopped supplies following India's first nuclear tests in 1974.

Under a recent deal, India is to have access to US civilian nuclear help, but cannot do so under current US law.

Mr Fradkov also signed some trade and technology agreements on banking and space cooperation. He attended a India-Russian business meeting after arriving in Delhi on Thursday evening.

'Proper-sequence'

Moscow is also likely to supply equipment and material for a new atomic power plant coming up in India's southern Tamil Nadu state with Russian help, reports say.

The US has expressed its reservations about Russia supplying nuclear fuel to India.

The Bhabha atomic plant outside Mumbai, India
India needs nuclear power to help meet its energy needs
A top US official said such a deal should not go through before India's recent landmark nuclear deal with the US is cleared by the US Congress and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG].

"India needs energy [...] so one understands that," US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns was quoted telling reporters in Washington by AFP news agency.

"We think the proper sequencing would be that if India needs nuclear fuel for its reactors in Tarapur, that the proper way to do this would be to have the US Congress act, hopefully change our laws, have the NSG act and change NSG practices, and then countries would be free to engage at that point in civil nuclear trade with India," he added.

Indian authorities say Russia had notified the Nuclear Suppliers' Group of its intentions to meet India's request for fuel for the Tarapur plant in western Maharashtra state.

They say a shortage of fuel for Tarapur "would have affected its continued operation under reliable and safe conditions".

NUCLEAR POWER IN INDIA
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

The last supplies made by Moscow in 2001 sparked US protests.

The controversial US-India nuclear deal, which reverses three decades of US policy, was finalised during President Bush's recent visit to India.

It will give energy-hungry India access to US civil nuclear technology.

In return, Delhi has agreed to open 14 of its nuclear facilities to inspection. Eight others have been designated as military sites and will remain closed.

Mr Bush has admitted it might be hard to get the landmark deal through the US Congress, which must ratify it.

Critics of the deal say it sends the wrong message to countries like Iran, whose nuclear ambitions Washington opposes. Some opponents in India say it might compromise national security and Indian foreign policy.




SEE ALSO:
India 'secures Russian uranium'
14 Mar 06 |  South Asia
US and India seal nuclear accord
02 Mar 06 |  South Asia
Indian PM holds talks in Moscow
06 Dec 05 |  South Asia
India and Russia's common past
04 Dec 02 |  South Asia


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