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Report: Russia still willing to sign nuclear agreement with India
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20:42, December 21, 2007

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Russia is willing as always to sign a nuclear agreement with India, if it stated clearly the reactors would be supplied after the lifting of international restrictions, the influential Hindu newspaper reported Friday.

The signing of a deal for supply of four additional reactors to the Koodankulam power project, where two Russian reactors are being set up, was expected to become a highlight of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow last month, but the signing was called off at the last minute.

New Delhi later said no bilateral deals could be signed before India got a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which signed an India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

However, the newspaper quoted a well-placed Russian official source familiar with the situation as saying that nothing could prevent India and Russia from signing a four-reactor accord, provided it stated clearly that reactors would be supplied after the lifting of the international restrictions on technology transfers to New Delhi.

The source claimed that the signing of the pact got derailed because India inserted in the agreed draft a clause on the deal being "irrevocable." The Indian side said there was nothing wrong with the clause as "any legally binding agreement is irrevocable."

However, the Russian side found the rider unacceptable, saying it could be interpreted as implying that Moscow was prepared to supply reactors, irrespective of whether India got international waivers. This would have pitted Russia against the United States and the NSG, of which Russia is a member.

"Russia has been working hard to get the NSG and the IAEA lift restrictions on India, but to ask us to sign an 'irrevocable' nuclear pact is really too much," the source was cited as saying.

Moscow saw New Delhi's demand as a pretext for not signing the bilateral nuclear pact at this stage, probably under the United States pressure, the report said.

A senior Russian diplomat told the Hindu that India backtracked on the Koodankulam deal shortly after France changed its mind to sign a nuclear deal with India.

From Russia's point of view, France, especially under President Nicholas Sarkozy, is susceptible to American pressure.

Moscow believes that Washington is trying to keep competitors away from the Indian nuclear energy market even as two delegations of U.S. energy firms visited India this year to explore possibilities of deals.

The Russian official source was cited as saying that Moscow was prepared to sign the four-reactor deal as soon as India was ready. He pointed out that the deal had no Hyde Act-type conditions attached to it.

The agreement also provided a framework for long-term nuclear cooperation with India, said the official source.

Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said earlier this year that they could build six more reactors at places other than Koodankulam. Russia has also offered to supply offshore nuclear plants to India without restrictions.


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