Page last updated at 21:07 GMT, Friday, 10 October 2008 22:07 UK

US and India sign nuclear accord

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee sign nuclear accord

The United States and India have signed a civilian nuclear co-operation accord to end 34 years of US sanctions.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee signed the deal in Washington after years of negotiations.

India will gain access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian, but not military, nuclear facilities.

Critics say the deal sets a potentially dangerous precedent.

They say it effectively allows India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other nations must.

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

'Doubts silenced'

"We look forward to working with the US companies on the commercial [steps] that will follow to implement this landmark agreement," Mr Mukherjee said just before signing.

India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
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

Ms Rice said: "Many thought this day would never come, but doubts have been silenced."

US President George W Bush signed the accord into law earlier this week, after it had finally been approved by the US Congress.

The deal was first agreed three years ago and is regarded as a key foreign policy priority for both the Indian and US governments.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said earlier that the deal would help India to liberate itself from "the constraints of technology denial of 34 years".

Although India has said it retains the right to conduct nuclear tests, the US has said the deal will be cancelled in such an eventuality.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) recently lifted a ban that had denied India access to the international nuclear market.

India and France have also signed a major co-operation pact which paves the way for the sale of French nuclear reactors to Delhi.

France is the world's second largest producer of nuclear energy after the United States.

Russia has also been lobbying the Indian government hard on behalf of its firms.

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