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Page last updated at 07:59 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 08:59 UK

India nuclear deal scrutinised

TIMETABLE FOR NUCLEAR ACCORD
India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
Approval required from 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group
Congress to approve deal before President Bush signs it into law
All this to happen before Mr Bush's tenure expires in January 2009

A group of nations that regulates global civilian nuclear trade has met to decide whether India can trade in sensitive nuclear materials.

A waiver from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in the Austrian capital Vienna would help India finalise a nuclear deal with the US.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency has already backed the controversial deal.

India's government says the deal is vital to meet its energy demands.

Critics of the deal say it creates a dangerous precedent - allowing India access to fuel and technology without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other countries must do.

Banned

Indian officials made a presentation to explain India's policy to the NSG members on Thursday. The meeting is expected to conclude on Friday.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon declined to comment after the briefing.

Other participants described the atmosphere at the morning session as cordial.

Officials say that the NSG may need to meet at least two more times after Friday before a decision is finally reached.

The deal must also be ratified by the US Congress.

Manmohan Singh
Indian PM Manmohan Singh has described the deal as 'historic'

The deal would allow India to enter the world market in nuclear fuel and technology - as long as it is for civilian purposes.

It had previously been banned from doing so under the terms of a 30-year embargo imposed because of its testing of atomic bombs and refusal to join the global NPT.

Under the terms of the accord, India would get access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel.

In return, Delhi would open its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection - but its nuclear weapons sites would remain off-limits.

Correspondents say that 14 of India's 22 existing or planned reactors would come under regular International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) surveillance if the deal goes ahead.

The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it first tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

Critics fear assistance to India's civil programme could free-up additional radioactive material for bomb-making purposes.




SEE ALSO
Indian government survives vote
22 Jul 08 |  South Asia
IAEA sets date for India proposal
15 Jul 08 |  South Asia

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