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Wednesday, October 27, 1999 Published at 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK

World: South Asia

Call for Indian nuclear restraint

The Agni missile: US wants India to curb its nuclear programme

By Daniel Lak in Delhi

US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has urged India to curtail its nuclear weapons and missile programme.

Speaking at a conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry, Mr Richardson said India should stop producing fissile weapons-grade material, curtail its missile programme and adhere to the terms of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty (CTBT).

These American demands are long standing and form the core of a dialogue between the Indian Foreign Minister and a senior State Department official that began shortly after India tested nuclear weapons in May 1998.

Test ban signing

Ironically, the only area where India was inclined to go along with Washington's wishes was on the CTBT, which has already been rejected by the US Senate.

Otherwise, the Indians say their regional and national security needs call for a minimum nuclear deterrent and that means fissile material for warheads and missiles to deliver them.

In India, Mr Richardson is widely seen as close to President Clinton and Indian officials have been talking about not being able to have a meaningful dialogue with a presidential administration on its way out.

US presidential elections are being held next year.

The primary purpose of the energy secretary's visit is to lay the groundwork for a trip by President Clinton early next year and to explore opportunities for American power companies in Indian infrastructure development.

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