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Indo-US nuke deal is our prime focus now: Rice

WASHINGTON, Aug 26: US has said the Indo-US nuclear deal, whose fate now rests with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, is currently the country's "principal focus" on the civil nuclear front.

Asked whether developments in Georgia will affect the US-Russia civilian nuclear deal, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the present focus of America's nuclear commerce policy was the India deal and not the one with Russia.

"Our principle focus right now has been on the India civil nuclear deal, having worked through the IAEA, now working through the NSG, and still trying to get into a position to make the appropriate presidential determinations in early September. So that's our focus right now on the civil nuclear side," Rice said on her way to Tel Aviv.

Commenting on the recent developments in the Caucacus region and Russia's support to the breakaway region of US ally Georgia, Rice said US is keen to ensure that no independent states emerge in Europe.

She, however, did not state clearly as to whether the US-Russia civil nuclear deal, which has already been presented to the Congress would be affected by Russian military action in Georgia.

"... we're going to continue to review what we will do about the various elements of the relationship with Russia. As you know, we've been very focused on what to do for Georgia. We've been making certain that there's a clear message that there aren't going to be any new lines in Europe," Rice said.

"And we've been very focused on getting the Russians to live up to the obligations that they undertook to President Sarkozy, not all of which have been yet fulfilled," she said.

Nuclear deal not `at any cost': Kakodkar

MUMBAI, Aug 26: Amid apprehensions that the amended NSG draft waiver for New Delhi's nuclear commerce could include language that would bind the country, India has said it wants civil nuclear cooperation but not "at any cost" and asserted that it will not accept any "conditions".

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar made it clear that India will not allow itself to be "pushed" over the nuclear deal and it will accept the waiver only if it is within the parameters of July 18, 2005 Indo-US Joint Statement.

"India is looking for acceptable NSG exemption, clean exemption with no additional conditions and the parameters have to be within the parameters of July 18,2005 understanding with the US," Kakodkar told reporters here on the sidelines of a function at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

"Civil nuclear cooperation is important but that does not mean at any cost," he said.

On suggestions that the Nuclear Suppliers Group countries were trying to push India to accept a few changes in the draft, he said "civil nuclear cooperation is important and they may push India but India does not get pushed." "Should we allow ourselves to be pushed? Are we not Indians? Are you not proud of yourself and what you are doing?", Kakodkar said.

His remarks came as India and the US prepared to amend the draft waiver because of demands articulated by several NSG countries at last week's meeting of the 45-nation grouping

N-deal: US ready to do business even with minority govt.

WASHINGTON, July 21: The US has said on Monday that it will move forward on the nuclear deal with any dispensation in New Delhi -- even if it is in minority.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher said Bush administration will have no problem in dealing with a minority government as "minority governments are common around the world."

"I don't have them off the top of my head, but I mean, minority governments are common around the world," he said.

"You can't say, 'Oh, well, we are going to stop dealing with you till the next election or until some new coalition or something. That's not for us to say," Boucher said commenting on the future of the nuclear deal if the UPA government fails to win the confidence vote in the Lok Sabha.

He said the US will continue to work with any legitimate government in India New Delhi to push forward the deal.

"If they have a legitimate government -- people who are empowered to run the government -- that's who we'll deal with," Boucher said.

"In terms of the United States and India, we deal with the legally constituted government of India -- whoever is running that government at the time, that's who we sign agreements with. So, that's not a problem for us," he said.

He said the Bush administration was ready to "go as far as" possible to see conclusion of the deal.

"We are going to work with the Indians, we are going to work with the Congress and we are going to take this as far as we can go," Boucher said.

"We are very excited by the prospect, we'll see what happens in the confidence vote, but however far the Indians could go, we are going to try to take it that far or further. So, that's what we are going to do," he said.

Asked about whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was little too late in pushing ahead with the deal, Boucher said it may not be "too late."

"I guess what I'll say is it's never too late. This is not a deal between a government and another government. It's a deal between the United States and India -- it's good for India, it's good for the United States."

On whether main opposition BJP's contention that without parliamentary approval the UPA government does not have the moral right to conclude the nuclear deal, Boucher said "on our side, there is no legal problem or moral problem".

"On their side there may not be a legal question, but there's always political questions and they're going to have to figure that one out themselves

"(But) As long as they are a duly constituted government, we are happy to deal with them," he said.

On the timeframe left for the 110th Congress to clear the deal, Boucher said the administration would try to push it and if the present Congress could not ratify it then the new Congress would take it up.

"As we move through, if we can move it to the point where the president can certify all the things that he has to certify, take the package and send it to Congress, we'll do that. If the Congress is in a position to act on it, I am sure they'll try to do that.

"So, I think, everybody wants to take it as far as we can. I can't promise what the US Congress will do, but if we take it to some point and times expires on this Congress, then the new Congress will have to take it up -- that's all you can say. So, that's our pledge."

Obama's 'Muslim' picture kicks up a storm

IllustrationWASHINGTON, July 14: Barack Obama's campaign says a satirical New Yorker magazine cover showing the Democratic presidential candidate dressed as a Muslim and his wife as a terrorist is "tasteless and offensive".

The illustration on the issue that hits newsstands on Monday, titled "The Politics of Fear" and drawn by Barry Blitt, depicts Barack Obama wearing what is commonly construed by Western media as traditional Muslim garb - sandals, robe and turban - and his wife, Michelle - dressed in camouflage, combat boots and an assault rifle strapped over her shoulder - standing in the Oval Office.

The couple is doing a fist tap in front of a fireplace in which an American flag is burning. Over the mantel hangs a portrait of Osama bin Laden.

"The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton. "But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."

In a statement on Monday, the magazine said the cover "combines a number of fantastical images about the Obama and shows them for the obvious distortions they are."

"The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall? All of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover," the New Yorker statement said.

The statement also pointed to the two articles on Obama contained inside the magazine, calling them "very serious."

Republican John McCain's campaign spokesman, Tucker Bonds, agreed that the cover was "tasteless and offensive."

Already the cover was generating controversy on the Internet. The Huffington Post , a left-leaning blog, said: "Anyone who's tried to paint Obama as a Muslim, anyone who's tried to portray Michelle as angry or a secret revolutionary out to get Whitey, anyone who has questioned their patriotism - well, here's your image."

Mahatma Gandhi, my inspiration: Obama

NEW DELHI, July 12: Mahatma Gandhi inspires US Presidential hopeful Barack Obama and he flaunts it by having a portrait of India's Father of the Nation at his Senate office.

The Democratic Party candidate has spoken highly about Gandhi, saying the apostle of peace reminds him about the real message of life.

"Throughout my life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do extraordinary things," Obama has told 'Outlook' magazine in an interview.

He cites this as the reason for having Mahatma Gandhi's portrait in his Senate office. It is "to remind me that real results will come not just from Washington they will come from the people."

Obama is also said to be a believer in Lord Hanuman and keeps his statue as a lucky charm.

He talked about the rural development work his mother did in India and said he was "fortunate" to have close Indian-American friends.

Obama slams Court decision on child rapists

WASHINGTON, June 27: Barack Obama criticized a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring the execution of child rapists unconstitutional, a stance at odds with some Democrats' opposition to the death penalty but one that could push back against any perception that he would be soft on crime.

Since wrapping up the nomination, Obama has tried to avoid being typecast by Republicans as a liberal who is not in tune with everyday Americans. His comments hours after the top U.S. court's decision could appeal to centrists and independents who are also being courted by his White House rival, Republican John McCain.

McCain also criticized the court's decision, calling it ``an assault on law enforcement's efforts to punish these heinous felons for the most despicable crime.''

The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Wednesday struck down a Louisiana law that allows capital punishment for people convicted of raping children under 12, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

It will be 'tragic for India' to forgo nuke deal: US

WASHINGTON, June 10: Seeking quick implementation of the civil nuclear agreement, the US has said it would be "tragic" for India if it forgoes this opportunity for a strategic partnership with the US.

"...We believe it is essential to quickly implement the landmark civil nuclear agreement with the United States and bring India into the international nuclear non-proliferation mainstream," US Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Christopher Padilla said here on Monday.

"It would be tragic for India to forgo this opportunity for a strategic partnership with the United States," he said.

Washington has been insisting that India needs to complete the processes required for the deal, saying time was running out in the light of the Presidential elections later this year.

New Delhi needs to firm up a safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and secure changes in the guidelines of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) to enable international nuclear commerce with it. But stiff opposition from Left allies has tied the government's hands in moving fast on the deal.

Addressing a Heritage Foundation seminar, Padilla said, "The benefits for India are clear, and we hope that India's government will choose to move forward as quickly as possible to fully realise the potential of this historic agreement".

Obama says he's for free trade

WASHINGTON, June 10: Conceding that migration of American jobs to Bangalore and Beijing due of globalization cannot be reversed, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama laid out his economic vision for the United States on Monday, calling for a more active government role in aiding the distressed.

Fresh from his victory over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nomination process, Obama wasted no time in differentiating himself from Republican policies and rival John McCain, whose economic agenda, he said, would be a continuation of George Bush’s failed policies.

His own vision of greater government intervention, a long-time Democratic hallmark, would include tax cuts for middle-income families and retirees, expansion of unemployment benefits, relief for home-owners facing foreclosure, and a $ 50 billion economic stimulus package.

''I understand that the challenges facing our economy didn't start the day George Bush took office and they won't end the day he leaves. Some are partly the result of forces that have globalized our economy over the last several decades -- revolutions in communication and technology have sent jobs wherever there's an internet connection; that have forced children in Raleigh and Boston to compete for those jobs with children in Bangalore and Beijing. We live in a more competitive world, and that is a fact that cannot be reversed,'' Obama said in a speech in North Carolina that kicked off what his campaign said was a two-week tour across the US aimed at sharing his economic vision.

The Democratic challenger however maintained the US did not arrive at the doorstep of the economic crisis ''by some accident of history...it was the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long.''

His prescription to fix it included greater investment in innovation and education, health care and energy, while cutting down tax breaks and giveaways to wealthy individuals and corporations.

Although it is the second time in less than a month that Obama has referred to Bangalore and Beijing, the citation has been more in a competitive spirit aimed at galvanizing the US rather than the scare-mongering about outsourcing that accompanied the 2004 Presidential election campaign.

At a college commencement address in Connecticut last month, Obama had urged greater focus on education, telling a graduating class that ''At a time when a child in Boston must compete with children in Beijing and Bangalore, we need an army of you to become teachers and principals in schools that this nation cannot afford to give up on.''

Challenging the perception that Democrats are broadly against free trade, Obama said it is ''a cause I believe in,'' and maintained ''we can’t or shouldn’t put walls around our economy,'' pronouncements that will come as a relief to globalization gurus.

But trade agreements that hand out favors to special interests and do little to help workers who have to watch their factories close down are no good. ''There is nothing protectionist about demanding that trade spreads the benefits of globalization as broadly as possible,'' he said.

Part of his economic plan, Obama said, would include big investments in a renewable energy policy that ''ends our addiction on foreign oil, provides real long-term relief from high fuel costs, and builds a green economy that could create up to five million well-paying jobs that can't be outsourced.''

The US could also create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our schools, roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure that needs repair instead of wasting money in Iraq.

Obama seals presidential nomination; rival Clinton defiant

NEW YORK, June 4: In a "defining moment" in US history, Barack Obama on Wednesday sealed the Democratic presidential nomination, becoming the first black American in the race for White House.

Taking a giant leap towards the White House, Barack Obama has become the first black American to seal the Democratic Presidential nomination setting up a poll battle with Republican John McCain, as defiant Hillary Clinton refused to concede angling to be his running mate.

"Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States," a beaming Obama told a boisterous crowd of supporters in St Paul, Minnesota last night after crossing the magic figure of 2,118 delegates needed to clinch the nomination for the November polls.

After the two end-game primaries in South Dakota and Montana saw the Democrat rivals sharing honours, Obama's tally reached 2,149.5, compared to 1925.5 of the former first lady.

"Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another, a journey that will bring a new and better day to America," Obama, 46, said, marking the end of the marathon race spreading over 17 months that pitted two historic candidates, a woman and an African-American against each other.

However, 60-year-old Clinton did not concede defeat and her supporters lobbied hard to secure the joint ticket for her to be the party's nominee for the post of Vice President.

"Obviously, it's on the table," Clinton's campaign Chairman Terry McAuliffe told CNN, recalling her victories in some swing states during the epic nomination battle with Obama.

"She has always said, I will do whatever it takes to win in the fall. Whatever that option may be."

Terming his capturing of the nomination a "defining moment" for the US, Obama sought to reach out to Clinton in a bid to unite the Democratic party after a bitter and prolonged slanging match that brought out deep racial and gender divide in the open.

I'm running to the end: Clinton

Hillary ClintonNEW YORK, May 26: White House hopeful Hillary Clinton has vowed no surrender to Barack Obama in their climaxing nomination race, insisting she was the Democrats' best hope against Republican John McCain.

In a front-page commentary for the New York Daily News, the former first lady also said her remarks about Bobby Kennedy's assassination as justification for staying in the race had been twisted out of context.

"Almost immediately, some took my comments entirely out of context and interpreted them to mean something completely different -- and completely unthinkable," she wrote.

"I want to set the record straight: I was making the simple point that given our history, the length of this year's primary contest is nothing unusual."

Clinton, in comments to a newspaper board in South Dakota on Saturday, triggered a firestorm of controversy for observing that Kennedy was shot dead in June 1968, as part of her rationale for fighting on to the end of the primary race.

In the Daily News piece, the New York senator said she was "not unaware of the challenges or the odds of my securing the nomination" with Obama seemingly holding a mathematical lock heading to the final primaries on 3rd June.

But touting her primary victories in big states such as California and New York, Clinton said: "I am running because I still believe I can win on the merits."

"I'm standing up for the deepest principles of our party and for an America that values the middle class and rewards hard work," she said, hailing the hope invested in her candidacy by older women and young girls.

"As the first female candidate in this position, I believe I have a responsibility to finish this race."

US spacecraft lands in north polar region of Mars

WASHINGTON, May 26: American spacecraft Phoenix, which landed in the north polar region of Mars to begin a three-month search for water and building blocks of life is in good health and has successfully sent images of the frozen land.

Prasun Desai, an Indian-American engineer, who put four years of work to get the solar-powered lander to the red planet, said "it felt like a really fast roller coaster."

"Everything worked out great," the engineer added.

The most difficult part, the scientists said, was to land the spacecraft since it was for the first time that the probe touched the ground on its three legs without using a cushion after it entered the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 miles per hour.

Scientists say the mission is important to learn whether life could develop on other planes and elsewhere in the universe when the conditions are favourable.

The first images from NASA's Mars Phoenix Lander also provided a glimpse of the flat valley floor expected to have water-rich permafrost within reach of the lander's robotic arm.

The landing ended a 422-million-mile journey from Earth and launched a three-month mission that will use instruments to taste and sniff the northern polar site's soil and ice.

"We see the lack of rocks that we expected, we see the polygons that we saw from space, we don't see ice on the surface, but we think we will see it beneath the surface. It looks great to me," said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson, principal investigator for the Phoenix mission.

Radio signals received after 15 minutes of its landing, NASA said, confirmed that the Phoenix Mars Lander had survived its difficult final descent and touchdown.

In the intervening time, those signals crossed the distance from Mars to Earth at the speed of light.

The confirmation ignited cheers by mission team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; and the University of Arizona.

As planned, Phoenix stopped transmitting one minute after landing and focused its limited battery power on opening its solar arrays, and other critical activities.

About two hours after touchdown, it sent more good news. The first pictures confirmed that the solar arrays needed for the mission's energy supply had unfolded properly, and masts for the stereo camera and weather station had swung into vertical position.

"Only five of our planet's 11 previous attempts to land on the Red Planet have succeeded. In exploring the universe, we accept some risk in exchange for the potential of great scientific rewards," said Ed Weiler, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Phoenix carries science instruments to assess whether ice just below the surface ever thaws and whether some chemical ingredients of life are preserved in the icy soil.

These are key questions in evaluating whether the environment has ever been favorable for microbial life.

Phoenix will also study other aspects of the soil and atmosphere with instrument capabilities never before used on Mars.

Hillary Clinton wins West Virginia primary

NEW YORK, May 14: Hillary Clinton emphatically routed her rival Barack Obama in West Virginia and asserted that the race for the White House is anything but over.

The victorious Clinton reminded her supporters and the party leadership that she is not giving up the challenge to the Party nomination and that she does not subscribe to the notion that the voters of Michigan and Florida who have been disqualified can be left out.

"You've heard this before. There are many who wanted to declare a nominee before the ballots were counted or even cast. Some said our campaign was over after Iowa, but then we won New Hampshire".

"Then we had big victories on Super Tuesday, and in Ohio, and Texas, and Pennsylvania. And, of course, we came from behind to win in Indiana".

"So this race isn't over yet. Neither of us has the total delegates it takes to win. And both Obama and I believe that the delegates from Florida and Michigan should be seated," Clinton told her backers in her victory speech in Charleston, West Virginia.

Monday night Clinton had said that she is in the race because she believes herself to be the strongest candidate to lead the party in November 2008 and the strongest president to lead the nation starting January 2009.

Clinton got 72 per cent of the white blue collar vote as opposed to only 23 per cent for Obama; 60 per cent of the men voters in the democratic primary backed Clinton.

Even in the category of white voters with college degrees went with Clinton by a 55 per cent to 41 per cent margin.

"We've won them in states that we must be prepared and ready to win in November: Pennsylvania and Ohio, Arkansas and New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, and now West Virginia," Clinton said.

Obama-McCain fight takes shape but Clinton still batting

WASHINGTON, May 12: Democrats took the fight to Republican John McCain Sunday as a November matchup between the hawkish senator and Barack Obama took shape, but Hillary Clinton was adamant she was still in the race.

With the Democrats coalescing behind Obama after a long and bitter nominating race, Senate majority leader Harry Reid gave a pithy outline of their three main lines of attack against McCain.

"He's wrong on the (Iraq) war. He's wrong on the economy. He's a clone of (President) George Bush," Reid told ABC, while urging Democrats to "relax" and let the Obama-Clinton battle play out until the final primaries on June 3.

Senator Christopher Dodd, who supports Obama, said he was confident Clinton would "make the right choice" for the sake of Democratic unity heading into November's general election.

"And she's not about to allow another term of George Bush in the name of John McCain, who's embraced basically the Bush policies on economics, on foreign policy," he said on NBC.

"The country wants a very different direction and I have every confidence that she's going to be as strong a supporter of Barack Obama as anyone would be when it comes to this November election."

Obama may be building up irresistible momentum against Clinton, but the Democrats' rival camps denied they were in talks to end their White House race through a deal on financial arrangements or the vice presidency.

On Friday, the deep-pocketed Obama prompted speculation of a deal to pay off Clinton's 20 million dollars of campaign debt if she bows out of the race and backs him for the nomination.

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod said about the debt question, "she hasn't asked, and we haven't offered."

"And the truth is I think that Senator Clinton will have the capacity to retire her debt. I don't believe that Senator Clinton is looking for a deal. I don't think that's what this is about," he said.

Axelrod brushed off a weekend report by conservative commentator Robert Novak that Obama's wife Michelle had vetoed Clinton as his potential pick for vice president, because of her "hostility" to the former first lady.

"That's false. There's been no discussion about vice presidential nominees and this whole scenario," the Obama aide said.

"I know that this is the parlor game of choice in Washington. But we're just going out there and meeting voters, fighting for every delegate, fighting for every vote. That's what Senator Clinton is doing."

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said on Fox she was poised for a big win in West Virginia on Tuesday, and was "going to keep going until she secures the nomination or until the nomination is decided in a different direction."

However, Obama has now pulled ahead of Clinton in support from Democratic grandees called " superdelegates " who look set to crown the party's champion to go up against McCain.

At least five more superdelegates announced their support for Obama on Saturday, taking his count on the RealClearPolitics website to 274 to Clinton's 271. He has 1,591 pledged delegates to her 1,426, according to its tally.

A total of 2,025 delegates is needed for victory, meaning the superdelegates will play a pivotal role at the Democrats' August nominating convention unless Clinton bows out first.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat turned independent who is stridently backing McCain, agreed that Obama was on course to be the party's standard-bearer for November.

On CNN, the Democrats' 2000 vice presidential nominee articulated one of the McCain campaign's major themes against Obama, that the Illinois senator would be weak on national security.

"I don't question Senator Obama's commitment to the security of the state of Israel. I'm saying when it comes to dealing with enemies, both in the Middle East and around the world, Senator McCain has more experience, more balance, knows when to be tough, knows when to be soft," Lieberman said.

"And I worry that Senator Obama has not had that experience and therefore, ultimately, will compromise our security in that way and also our alliances."

Kalam backs Indo-US nuke deal

MUMBAI, May 11: Making a strong case for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal facing stiff opposition from the Left, former President A P J Abdul Kalam today said the country is dependent heavily on nuclear power in the future for which it will need the uranium supplies that the pact will facilitate.

"We need the uranium supply and definitely the pact is important if we want to meet the target of nuclear energy's contribution in the total energy production," Kalam said.

He was speaking at a function in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the ' Shakti ' series of the Pokhran nuclear tests.

Kalam, who had played a key role in Pokhran II, said, "currently we have an installed capacity of only 3,900 MW which the Department of Atomic Energy plans to take to 7,160 MW by 2012 and to 24,000 MW by 2020".

"Our uranium reserves are limited. We will need a certain amount of uranium to attain the next stage in the fuel cycle producing energy on thorium which is available in abundance in India," the noted scientist said.

Kalam also said India must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels for energy production by 2020 and endorsed adopting various non-conventional and renewable sources, besides nuclear energy, for generating electricity.

In his remarks, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission Anil Kakodkar said the country is no longer "technology limited" but "raw material limited" and exuded the confidence that India would overcome the limitation.

Kakodkar, however, declined to comment on the status of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal currently being debated by the UPA-Left Committee.

"We have discussed this deal with other countries and the IAEA. Now the rest of the decision is not technical."

"We should adopt strategies that would bridge the gap (of uranium supply) as early as possible without compromising our autonomy to pursue our own development as planned both in strategic as well as the three stage programmes," Kakodkar, who was part of the long-drawn negotiation on the deal, said.

Meanwhile, Principal Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister, Chidambaram said, "I tell the Americans that we need to collaborate in the short term as it will be beneficial for them in the long term."

US hopeful of concluding N-deal under Bush administration

NEW DELHI, April 24: As uncertainty looms large over the fate of the civil nuclear deal, the US today said its relations with India would "not rise or fall" on a single issue even as it remained hopeful of wrapping up the agreement under the Bush Administration. "The US-India agenda is well beyond this administration.

The US civil nuclear deal hopefully will come together as our relationship has moved beyond a single event", said Under Secretary for International Affairs in the US Treasury Department David McCormick while delivering a talk on "The State of the Global Markets" here.

Expressing the hope that the civil nuclear deal could go through during the tenure of President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said, "it is critical that the relationship does not rise and fall on a single event.

"The Presidential election process is underway in the US and will be completed by the year-end. Implementation of the nuclear deal has run into rough weather because of stiff opposition by the Left parties, which extend crucial outside support to the UPA government.

Operationalisation of the deal is three crucial steps away -- firming up of India-IAEA safeguards agreement, waiver by 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group to India for trade with international community and a final vote by the US Congress. McCormick said there was support for the civil nuclear deal in the US and "we want to move forward.

"Referring to environmental issues, he said the US was ready to adopt post-Kyoto binding commitments on green house gas emissions, but emerging economies would also have to do their bit to fight the menace of global climate change. "We have to find a model" to meet the global environmental challenge, he added.

Clinton beats Obama 54-46 per cent in Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON, April 23: In nearly complete returns in Pennsylvania, Democrat Hillary Clinton was beating rival Barack Obama by 54.3 per cent to 45.7 per cent in the state's presidential nominating contest, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

The state's election division reported that with 99.13 per cent of districts reporting statewide, Clinton won 1.23 million votes to Obama's 1.04 million.

Clinton cruising toward Pennsylvania win: polls

NEW YORK, April 21: Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton is cruising toward a win in Tuesday's nominating contest in the crucial blue-collar state of Pennsylvania, polls suggested.

After weeks of hard-fought politicking, Clinton led rival Barack Obama with 52 per cent of likely voters saying they would choose the former first lady, over 42 per cent for the Illinois senator seeking to become American's first black president according to a Suffolk University poll released on Monday.

A separate survey showed a smaller margin but also found Clinton had increased her edge over the weekend, gaining two points to boost her lead over Obama by 48 per cent to 42 per cent, according to a Newsmax/Zogby poll.

Obama lost one point of support and undecideds dropped by two points, but the figures still kept Clinton's edge over Obama within the Newsmax/Zogby poll's four percentage point margin of error.

Despite showing a larger edge for Clinton, the Suffolk University poll showed mixed sentiment among voters when it came to who would ultimately become the next president, with 42 per cent choosing Obama and 32 per cent Clinton, regardless of whom they personally supported.

Fourteen per cent said they believed the presumptive Republican nominee would win the White House, while 12 per cent were undecided.

While pundits have said Clinton needed a strong, 10-point margin of victory to keep her presidential hopes alive, some analysts said the protracted Democratic battle for the party's nomination spelled trouble.

Next US president may not push N-deal: Blackwill

NEW DELHI, April 20: Former US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill, who has also been a chief lobbyist for New Delhi in Washington, on Sunday said the next American president might not have as much stake in the nuclear deal as the current administration does.

"If I may be characteristically blunt, the next American president will not have the same sunk costs in the US-India civil nuclear agreement that this president (George W Bush) and the top of the administration has," Blackwill said at the first International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)-Citi India Global Forum here.

He said that while US will not pay any price if the deal does not go through, "India will pay a substantial price in its future energy policy, and its lack of civil nuclear assistance from the outside world".

On the hurdles that the deal has encountered in Indian domestic politics, Blackwill said: "I would say, but perhaps you would not agree, that coming from a democracy myself that furiously debates such agreements, and in which its own domestic politics are deeply engaged, I do not criticise India and its great democracy for struggling with the domestic political implications of that agreement."

The Left parties that support the Manmohan Singh government have been strongly opposed to the deal.

The former envoy added that if the nuclear deal was not reached this year, "it would not produce a large bump in the US-India bilateral relationship".

Blackwill also hoped that the next US president would not return to the pre-2001 pattern of "lecturing" India on nuclear weapons.

"They (Indians) did not have much tolerance before, and they have none now. That would be a substantial irritant in the relationship if it were to occur."

Further, he said, "the same thing is true of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which conceivably could be a high priority for the next American president, depending on how our election turns out."

"Again, I hope very much that the administration to come does not wear out its welcome in New Delhi with urgings regarding the CTBT," said Blackwill.

Indo-US nuke deal not at "now or never" point: White House

WASHINGTON, March 26: The Indo-US civil nuclear deal has not reached the point of "now or never", the White House has said after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's talks with President George W Bush in Washington.

"... We have a little bit of time before we have to say now or never. We've got several months to continue to work with them (India)," White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said.

Wrapping up his two-day visit, Mukherjee, who had a 35-minute meeting with Bush and held talks with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on Monday, said UPA government is "interested" in pursuing the Indo-US civil nuclear deal and that it was aware of the July timeline suggested by members of the US Congress.

"There are some issues that are yet to be resolved. Unless those issues are resolved, it would be difficult for us to fix any particular time frame," he told a press conference in Washington on Tuesday.

He explained the difficulties of moving forward on the deal without a political consensus.

“At this juncture it is difficult for me to indicate any time frame by which we will be able to complete the process.”

"We have some problems in the domestic field particularly among our supporters of the coalition government which we are heading. We are trying to resolve that issue but it might take some more time," Mukherjee said before flying to London on his way back home.

Asked if the UPA was ready to sacrifice the government for the deal if no consensus emerged, the minister said "it's not a question of sacrificing either the government or the deal."

The US has been looking at India firming up the safeguards agreement with the IAEA and securing changes in the guidelines of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) by July this year.

About the possibility of the deal getting the Congress approval by mid-year, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack spoke of the constraints if India failed to complete the processes.

"I think as that you get further and further into the Congressional calendar, I think it's fair to say it's more and more difficult just because of the political realities of the press of business," he said.

"The main issue now is the Indian government working its domestic politics," McCormack said.

Mukherjee explained that the UPA government was trying to bring around Left allies on the deal.

"Currently we are engaged in resolving the issues and trying to find out whether we can find a meeting ground between us and a section of our supporters."

He said the government was "interested" in ratifying this cooperation because the country is energy deficient and "we would like to have alternate source of energy".

Mukherjee said there had been "divergent views" on the deal not only from the Left but also the BJP, the main opposition party.

"But there is an overwhelming consensus that nuclear technology is important and nuclear energy would be one of the sources of clean energy and we should try to have it," the Minister said.

Mukherjee said the government wanted to avert an embarrassing situation of the next government in New Delhi not honouring the deal.

"It is time consuming. It is taxing our patience but nonetheless we do feel it is worth pursuing," Mukherjee said.

He was asked at what point he will be sharing the IAEA draft agreement with the Left.

"I have given some broad outlines because I made a commitment that I will give them the outcome of the negotiation. But they wanted some details and I will give them in the next meeting," the Minister replied.

During his talks with Rice, the Minister said they discussed a number of areas of mutual interest.

"The nuclear deal came up in our discussions and I stated the latest developments. As you are aware we have finalised the language of the text of the agreement but the process of signing is yet to be completed. After that it will be taken up by the Board of Governors (of IAEA)," he added.

"The events have their own momentum and surely we are interested in pursuing this deal and if we can evolve a consensus around this deal, it would be possible thereafter for us to hasten the process," Mukherjee said.

"To address our basic problems we require substantial amount of energy. From that point of view we are interested in finalising this cooperation agreement," the Minister said.

Asked to comment on a survey in India which said only 22 percent of the people were aware of the nuclear deal but 60 percent in this category approved it, Mukherjee said that many in India are not fully aware of the deal.

"This is not a little unusual. But at the same time I must say that in the informed circles, there is a broad consensus about the need for augmenting energy generating capabilities of India and its requirement to sustain the enhanced level of growth," he said.

India buys more time on nuke deal

WASHINGTON, March 24: The US-India nuclear agreement is not dead. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has sought more time from Washington to fulfill New Delhi's part of the bargain, saying the UPA government in New Delhi is still trying to resolve differences with its coalition partners on the subject.

Clearly buying more time for the UPA government to consummate the deal, Mukherjee also gave an update on the talks with the IAEA on the safeguards agreement but held out no assurance that the government will be able to seal and deliver the deal before the June time-line that Washington has laid down.

The nuclear deal issue figured only briefly at the talks between Mukherjee and his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice on Monday morning, but more intimate parleys on the subject are expected later in the day when Mukherjee meets President Bush in the White House, and at his dinner date with Rice in the evening. That's when extended discussions on the possible timeline and choreography, including the fallout of going ahead with the deal -- or reneging on it -- is expected.

In brief remarks to the media at the state department, neither Mukherjee nor Rice gave any indication of forward movement on the nuclear matter, although they expressed resolve in overcoming the hurdles.

"We will continue to work on the landmark agreement, which is good for both countries and for non-proliferation," Rice said cryptically, as she dwelt briefly on the landmark nature of the deal, before veering off to the hot-button issue of Tibet.

Mukherjee shed no light on any progress beyond outlining the multilateral processes New Delhi was going through, while acknowledging that there were domestic political 'problems' holding up the deal which the government was trying to resolve.

"We are interested in implementing the landmark agreement... But we have some political problems in our country. Currently we are engaged in resolving those problems," he said bluntly, with Rice by his side.

The candor, with its non-committal nature, may have been jarring to the administration that has gone out on a limb to push the agreement with domestic and international doubters, but it at least suggested the UPA government has not given up on the deal.

While the American side has tacitly conveyed its disappointment over the UPA government's indecisiveness in the matter, a more forceful reiteration of the US view could come later in the day in one-on-one parleys Mukherjee is scheduled to have with President Bush and Secretary Rice.

Rice was almost desultory on the nuclear issue, and indeed the whole gamut of US-India ties in her opening statement, as a result of the obvious US disappointment over lack of progress on the matter. But she was far more animated on Tibet, a subject India wishes would just go away and not complicate its burgeoning ties with China.

Rice urged China to consider a new policy to address Tibetans' grievances and to start talks with the Dalai Lama, saying a dialogue with the Tibetan spiritual leader "is going to be the only policy that is sustainable in Tibet."

Clearly reflecting New Delhi's growing discomfiture over the situation where the US is turning the heat on China, Mukherjee on his part said exiled Tibetans can carry on their religious activities from their base in India, but warned that India will not allow political activities that could disturb its relations with other countries.

Obama beats Clinton in Mississippi

Barack ObamaMISSISSIPPI, March 12: Democrat Barack Obama easily beat rival Hillary Clinton in Mississippi on Tuesday, giving him new momentum in their heated presidential fight as they head to the next showdown in Pennsylvania in six weeks.

Obama, who would be the first black U.S. president, rode a wave of heavy black support to victory and extended his lead over Clinton in pledged delegates to the August nominating convention. The Illinois senator also won on Saturday in Wyoming.

Clinton revived her hopes in the Democratic race last week by beating Obama in primaries in Ohio and Texas, prolonging their bitter Democratic fight for the right to face Republican John McCain in November's presidential election.

"What we have tried to do is steadily make sure that in each state we are making the case about the need for change in this country, and obviously the people of Mississippi responded," Obama said in an interview on CNN.

Clinton did not speak publicly after the result, but her campaign manager, Maggie Williams, released a statement thanking the New York senator's supporters in Mississippi.

"Now we look forward to campaigning in Pennsylvania and around the country as this campaign continues," Williams said.

Both candidates were already in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, looking ahead to its April 22 contest that has 158 delegates at stake -- the biggest single-state haul remaining in the race for the nomination.

While voters in Mississippi were still casting their ballots, racial remarks about Obama by a prominent Clinton supporter sparked a harsh exchange between the two camps.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984 and the only woman ever nominated by a major party for either of the top two U.S. political offices, told a California newspaper.

"And if he was a woman he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept," Ferraro said.

Clinton said she did not agree with the comments and called them "regrettable," but the Obama camp accused her of a double standard for refusing to rebuke Ferraro and remove her from her finance position with the campaign.

Obama's top foreign policy adviser resigned last week after telling a British newspaper Clinton was "a monster."

"I don't think Geraldine Ferraro's comments have any place in our politics or in the Democratic Party. They are divisive," Obama told a Pennsylvania newspaper.

"I would expect that the same way those comments don't have a place in my campaign they shouldn't have a place in Senator Clinton's either," he said.

Exit polls in Mississippi showed Obama won about 90 percent of black voters, who were expected to make up about half of the state's Democratic primary electorate, and continued to hold big leads among young voters.

Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, retained her advantage with older voters, exit polls showed. The two candidates have developed consistent bases of support within the Democratic Party.

Obama's win in Mississippi will add to his nearly insurmountable lead over Clinton in the pledged delegates who will help decide the nominee. Mississippi has 33 pledged delegates at stake.

But neither Obama nor Clinton is likely to reach the 2,025 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without help from nearly 800 "superdelegates" -- party officials and insiders free to back any candidate.

The states of Michigan and Florida, which were stripped of their delegates in a dispute with the national party and held unsanctioned contests won by Clinton, also could figure in a final resolution of the tight race.

Officials in both states have discussed redoing their contests so they would produce delegates to the convention, but the candidates, the state parties and national party would have to agree on the timing, funding and formats.

Clinton, who has repeatedly criticized Obama for failing to live up to his rhetoric, told supporters in Pennsylvania her rival's promises were not matched by his actions.

"My opponent is here in Pennsylvania talking about energy policy and I think specifically about wind energy and that's great," Clinton said.

"Except in 2005, when we had a chance to say 'no' to Dick Cheney and his energy bill, my opponent said 'yes' and voted for it with all of those tax subsidies," she said.

Hillary wins New Mexico's Democratic caucus

ALBUQUERQUE (New Mexico), Feb 15: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton finally won the popular vote in New Mexico's Democratic caucus and picked up one extra delegate, nine days after "Super Tuesday" voting ended.

State Democratic Chairman Brian Colon made the announcement after a marathon hand count of 17,000 provisional ballots that had to be given to voters on February 5 because of long lines and a shortage of ballots. The final statewide count gave her a 1,709-vote edge over rival Senator Barack Obama, 73,105 to 71,396.

The former first lady's victory in the popular vote swung the final unallocated New Mexico delegate into her column, which gave Clinton 14 delegates in the state to 12 for Obama.

With the addition of New Mexico's delegate, the national delegate count stood at 1,276 for Obama and 1,220 for Clinton.

"I am so proud to have earned the support of New Mexicans from across the state," Clinton said in a written statement. "New Mexicans want real solutions to our nation's challenges. As president, I will continue to stand up for New Mexico and will hit the ground running on day one to bring about real change."

The Obama campaign appeared to accept the outcome. Obama's state director, Carlos Monje Jr, was asked if he was confident the results were 100 per cent accurate and replied, "We have confidence in the process."

Asked if Obama might seek a recount, he said Obama has momentum from eight wins since Super Tuesday's two-dozen contests and "we are going to look forward at the contests we have remaining."

Mass shooting at Chicago University campus, Six dead

NEW YORK, Feb 15: In yet another campus shooting in United States University, five students have been killed and 15 others wounded after a heavily-armed former student opened indiscriminate fire in a Northern Illinois University lecture hall.

The tall white skinny assailant, dressed in black shirt and hat and dark pants, came out from behind a curtain on the stage of the lecture hall and fired over 20 shots at the students in the geology class,eyewitnesses and officials said.

The gunman, whom the authorities did not immediately identify, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, John G. Peters, the president of Northern Illinois University, told reporters.

The gunman's body was found on the stage of the lecture hall along with three weapons two handguns and the shotgun, with ammunition still left in both handguns.

Gun magazines were found "all over the floor," Donald Grady, the NIU police chief, said.

"This thing started and ended within a matter of seconds," he said adding there was no apparent motive ascertained as of now.

Four of the dead were women. Peters said four, including the assailant, died at the scene and the other two died at the hospital, adding all the victims were students.

Shots rang out shortly after 3 PM Central Time inside Cole Hall of the 113-year-old university where 25,000 students, including, 862 foreigners, are enrolled.

"He just kicked the door open, just started shooting," Kevin McEnery, who was in the class at the time.

"All I really heard was just people screaming, yelling 'get out.'... Close to 30 shots were fired."

Pentagon announces charges against six 9/11 accused

WASHINGTON, Feb 12: Pentagon on Monday charged six Guantanamo detainees, accused of playing central roles in the 11th September terror attacks, with murder and war-crimes.

The prosecutors will seek the death penalty for the six accused on charges, including conspiracy and murder "in violation of the law of war", attacking civilians and civilian targets, terrorism and support of terrorism, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal adviser to the Defense Department's Office of Military Commissions, said.

The six men include Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has described himself as the mastermind of the attacks.

"These charges allege a long term, highly sophisticated, organised plan by al-Qaida to attack the United States of America," Hartmann said.

A Defence Department official earlier told the daily that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty because "if any case warrants it, it would be for individuals who were parties to a crime of that scale".

A decision to seek the death penalty increases the international focus on the case and presents new challenges to the troubled military commission system that has yet to begin a single trial, the paper said.

In addition to Mohammed, the other five being charged include detainees who, officials said, were coordinators and intermediaries in the terror plot that killed nearly 3,000 people.

General Hartmann said he could not predict when actual trials would begin, but that pretrial procedures would take several months at least.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, are also charged with the separate substantive offence of hijacking or hazarding an aircraft.

The chargesheet details 169 overt acts allegedly committed by the defendants and their uncharged co-conspirators in furtherance of the 9/11 events.

"As to regard to the death penalty, we're a long way from determining for even focusing on in this press conference procedures with regard to the death penalty. First of all, Judge Crawford has to make a decision that she will refer some or all of them as death-eligible," Gen Hartman said.

For a death sentence at least 12 jury members must conclude unanimously that the accused committed the offence.

Judge Crawford will then review the evidence submitted by prosecutors and decide whether there is probable cause to refer the cases to trial.

Then, the case goes through the Court of Military Commission Review, the DC Court of Appeals, and potentially to the Supreme Court.

The tribunal system which has been slammed by human rights activists and defence attorneys has undergone changes since the time it was set up at the start of the war on terror.

US eyes $40 bn arms market in India

WASHINGTON, Dec 27: Eyeing a potential $40 billion arms market, including a new multi-role fighter aircraft and missile-defence systems, the US is hoping to forge a long-term military relationship with India.

"A significant Indian defence purchase from the United States - for example, of the new advanced multi-role combat aircraft that the Indian Air Force seeks - would be a great leap forward and signal a real commitment to long-term military partnership," according to a senior US official.

US military cooperation with India is impeded by the fact that much of the Indian military still uses a considerable amount of Soviet-era equipment, Nicholas Burns, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said in the November/December issue of the journal Foreign Affairs.

Noting barriers to closer coordination in training and the sharing of military doctrine remain in both governments, Washington's chief interlocutor on the India-US civil nuclear deal said: "By reaching out to India, we have made the bet that the planet's future lies in pluralism, democracy and market economics rather than in intolerance, despotism and state planning."

Six fighter suppliers from Europe, Russia and the US are to submit detailed bids by March 3 for 126 new combat aircraft sought by the IAF. The US competitors, Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, are hoping to unseat India' s traditional suppliers from Russia.

Russia is offering its MiG-35 to replace the earlier-model MiGs. Also in the race are France's Dassault Rafale, Sweden's Saab AB JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, made by a consortium of British, German, Italian and Spanish companies.

Earlier this month, a high-level US government working group cleared the way for its two top defence suppliers - Lockheed and Boeing - to offer India cutting-edge radar technology as part of their fighter bids.

Last February, leading US defence companies mounted a mission to India to consolidate what they called "the momentum of the recent US-India strategic partnership" and to showcase American excellence in technology, reliability and long-term partnership.

Boeing showcased its F/A-18f, C-17 transport aircraft, and Chinook heavy-lift chopper, while Lockheed Martin presented the F-16, C-130j, and P-3c at India's largest ever air show in Bangalore. Many other US companies displayed their equipment at the show.

Other companies on the mission included Honeywell, General Electric, Raytheon, The Cohen Group, United Technologies Corporation/Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter Textron, Emergent Bio-Solutions, L-3 Communications, and the Fremont Group.

It was the first time in history that the US government had approved such a large fleet of military aircraft for static and flying display in a major air show, according to US-India Business Council (USIBC), an advocacy group representing over 250 of the largest US companies investing in India.

"As the United States and India look ahead to a new kind of partnership, we in the US government should not forget that the big breakthrough in US-India relations was achieved originally by the private sector," Burns said.

In many respects, both governments are playing catch-up with the extraordinary business-led trade and investment growth of the last two decades, he said. "Since 1991 - the year of the launch of the economic reforms in India - trade between the United States and India has grown more than sixfold, reaching $32 billion in 2006."

Boeing alone sold $11 billion worth of aircraft last year to India, one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets. General Electric houses its second-largest research centre in Bangalore, Burns noted.

"As businesses multiply, our societies are increasingly being woven together, thanks in part to the 2.5 million Indian Americans in the United States, the wealthiest and best-educated immigrant community in the country," he said.

"India is, of course, the region's largest country and its dominant economic and military power," said Burns noting: "Today there is more of a strategic upside to our relationship with India than there is with any other major power.

"The rise of a new US-India strategic partnership over the last two decades is one of the most significant and positive developments in international politics," said the US diplomat. "If the old US-India relationship could barely lift anchor, the new one has clearly set sail."

US says it is ready for N-deal regardless of Indian's timing

WASHINGTON, Dec 7: The US has said it will move forward on the civilian nuclear deal whenever India is ready as it "understands" that New Delhi needs to work through the political process in the country.

"In terms of the decisions within the Indian political system, we (the US) respect the needs and the rights of their political leaders to work this through themselves. But we're ready and able to move forward whenever they (India) would like us to," State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey said.

He, however, said that regardless of the outcome or the timing of the agreement, Washington will continue to expand its relations with India, which is "an increasingly important player on the world stage".

"We understand that the Indian government has its own political process that it needs to work through, and we fully expect that, regardless of the outcome or the timing of this agreement, we're going to continue to expand our relations with India," the senior official told reporters while replying to a query.

Casey expressed the hope that the deal will be finalised as it was in the best interest of the two countries and global non-proliferation efforts.

"We continue to believe it's something that's in the best interests of the United States, of India, and of the broader international community in efforts to inhibit the proliferation of nuclear technology and nuclear weapons," he said during a briefing.

"So we want to make sure that not only we see this nuclear agreement move forward, but that more importantly, our broader relations with India continue to develop and grow," he said.

Iran nuclear weapons programme stopped in 2003: US officials

WASHINGTON, Dec 4: Iran halted its nuclear weapons programme in late 2003 under international pressure but is continuing to enrich uranium keeping the option open to develop atomic weapons, US intelligence officials said on Sunday.

The latest National Intelligence Estimate released by the Bush administration under the aegis of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has also said Iran is capable of producing enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon "sometime during the 2010-2015 time-frame."

"We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme. We also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons," stated the report.

The report said Tehran's announcement of its decision to suspend its declared uranium enrichment programme and sign an Additional Protocol to its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement, was directed primarily in response to increasing international scrutiny and pressure resulting from exposure of Iran's previously undeclared nuclear work.

According to the report by the National Intelligence Council, until fall 2003 Iranian military entities were working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

"Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons programme as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop nuclear weapons," it said adding Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

"Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons programme suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.

US imposes new sanctions on Iran

WASHINGTON DC, Oct 26: The US has stepped up fresh sanctions on Iran for "supporting terrorists" and pursuing nuclear activities. The new measures target the finances of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and three state-owned banks.

The measures, announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, cover some of the Iranian government's largest military and financial institutions, which Washington blames for supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, Shia insurgent groups in Iraq, along with the Hamas and Hezbollah organizations.

Iran's defence ministry and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps are to be designated proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile technology while several banks will be hit with sanctions for "proliferation financing," the officials said.

The Quds force and banks will be identified as "specially designated global terrorist" groups for their activities and financing of militant groups in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, the officials said.

In all, more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guards will be covered by the sanctions, they said.

The sanctions will be the toughest the United States has levied against Tehran since the 1979 takeover of the US Embassy there.

Rice told a House committee on Wednesday that the administration shares Congress' goal of making sanctions tougher on Iran.

Russian President Vladimir Putin objected on Thursday to new sanctions against Iran, saying such action would put Iran in a corner over its nuclear programme.

''Why should we make the situation worse, corner it, (Iran) threatening new sanctions?'' Putin told reporters during a visit to Lisbon.

Iran denies the charges of making a nuclear bomb, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful.

Russia, which is helping Iran build a nuclear power station, has backed the United Nations' two sets of mild sanctions, intended to encourage Tehran to cooperate more with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

However, Russia said it would not back any further sanctions unless the IAEA said Tehran was not cooperating or the UN nuclear watchdog finds that Iran's programme had military goals.

Russia, a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council, has enough power to block further U.N. sanctions against Iran.

Moscow has been increasingly concerned by Washington's efforts to put pressure on Iran with sanctions, bypassing the United Nations and saying such efforts undermine joint efforts to solve Tehran's nuclear issue.

Putin met top Iranian officials last week when he attended a Caspian Sea conference in Tehran.

He said he urged them to respect their commitments under a nuclear non-proliferation pact.

Iran is one of the issues which will be discussed during a EU-Russia summit on Friday in Portugal.

The disagreements also include the future of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo, and Russian and European energy and investment policies.

Putin said negotiations were the only way to solve Iran's nuclear standoff.

US to strive to make Indo-US nuke deal reality

WASHINGTON, Oct 26: Dismissing speculations that the Indo-US nuclear deal was "dead", the Bush administration has said that Washington will continue to work for making the landmark deal a reality.

"We are still very supportive of the deal. We still would like to see it move forward, but the Indian government and the political system is engaged in a debate, and we'll see what the outcome out of that debate is," US States Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Asked if believed that the deal was "dead", McCormack replied, "We continue to support the agreement and would like to move forward with it" refusing to make predictions if the process will go through next year.

"I'm not going to make any predictions. We continue to support it though." McCormack said.

Refusing that the US would get into the debate that is currently going in India between the political parties over the deal, he said "I understand there are a lot of intensive domestic political discussions in India. The Indian government and the political system will play out those discussions. It's not something that we're going to directly participate in."

Indian-American Bobby Jindal becomes Governor of Louisiana

Bobby JindalLOUSIANA: Oxford-educated Bobby Jindal, impressively defeated his opponents in the gubernatorial poll held on Saturday and became the first Non-white and the youngest Governor of the US state of Louisiana.

Jindal will take over as Governor in January next year, until then he would continue to be a Congressman.

Four years after he lost a heated battle for the post, 36-year-old Jindal won with 53 percent of the vote while his nearest democrat received 17 percent of the vote.

He will be the youngest US Governor when in office.

The Republican`s prospects brightened thanks to three years of Congressional experience, a splintered Democratic field and an incumbent whose political fortunes were done in by Hurricane Katrina.

Polls already showed that Jindal had the support of nearly half of the state`s voters, and no one else was even close in the field of a dozen candidates.

Under Louisiana`s open primary system, all candidates for Governor were running against each other, regardless of party.

Jindal lost to Democrat Kathleen Blanco in 2003, garnering 48 per cent of the vote.

Blanco ended her re-election bid earlier this year after being sharply criticised for the state`s sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

US continues to support N-deal with India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 16 : Expressing optimism on clinching the civil nuclear cooperation deal with India, the US has hoped that New Delhi would continue its efforts to implement the agreement "in a time that is appropriate for both sides".

US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the deal was in the best interests of both nations and despite "internal discussions" in India, he was optimistic it would go through before the end of the Bush administration in January 2009.

Speaking to newsmen, Casey said "we do hope though that India will decide to move forward with this agreement and we would like to see it completed in 2008. This is an issue on which we continue to have conversations with Indian government officials."

Without disclosing the details of the conversation between President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, the spokesman said on Tuesday the deal was "positive" and "good" for both the countries as well as for the broader efforts of non-proliferation.

"... it's up to the Government of India to talk about their efforts. Again, I think we're going to continue to work on our part and we assume they're going to continue to work on theirs and it'll be done in a time that is appropriate for both sides," he said after the two leaders spoke over phone.

Asserting that the US continues to support the agreement, Casey said one of things the Indian Government needed to do on its side to implement the agreement was to work with the IAEA and establish a safeguards arrangement.

"On our side, we'd of course need to work out an appropriate arrangement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group. And certainly we want to see that get accomplished. But again in terms of the timing and the discussions internally within the Indian political system, I'll leave that to them," Casey said.

"...I think what you can assume from that is that we continue to support this agreement...," said the official.

Casey said the arrangement was positive for both countries and the broader international community and "we'd like to see it done as soon as possible, but that's within the context of what each country has to do and has to accomplish."

"I'll leave it to Indian officials to talk about their own internal political discussions on this. As you know, we believe that this arrangement that is a positive one and a good one for the United States, for India and for the broader efforts of nonproliferation."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto strongly rejected the view of many experts that the deal is collapsing.

Speaking to newsmen Fratto said "we understand that all politics are local and that India is a thriving democracy and they have work to do and they may need some additional time on their end to get their part of this deal done."

"The president is willing and understands that the Indians may need more time for this. But no, it's not dead," he added.

Bush in surprise detour to Iraq

BAGHDAD, Sept 4: US President George Bush last night made a surprise detour to Iraq on his way to Australia as part of a strategy to seize the initiative in the country before the US Congress possibly changes the course of the war.

The US President landed at the al-Asad Air Base in Anbar Province in a secret visit, his first to Iraq since June last year.

The trip came as Britain, the US's biggest partner in Iraq, withdrew the last of its forces from inside the southern city of Basra, handing control to the Iraqi forces.

And it came just days before Mr Bush's military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker hand a crucial report on progress in Iraq to the Congress.

In the blazing heat, Mr Bush was scheduled to spend six hours on the ground in the former al-Qa'ida stronghold, meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, General Petraeus and Mr Crocker.

Air Force One due to depart al-Asad for Sydney in the early hours of this morning, meaning the President was expected to arrive in Australia late tonight, as originally planned.

Mr Bush was accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser Steve Hadley and his Iraq war adviser, General Douglas Lute. Secretary of Defence Robert Gate and Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, landed separately in al-Asad for the meetings.

The Iraq trip came after the President slipped out of Washington 16 hours ahead of schedule to make the dramatic unannounced visit to the war zone, his third since the conflict began in 2003.

14 US soldiers killed in chopper crash

BAGHDAD, Aug 22: A Black Hawk helicopter went down Wednesday in northern Iraq, killing all 14 U.S. soldiers aboard, the military said, the deadliest crash since January 2005.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, meanwhile, lashed out at American criticism a day after President Bush expressed frustration with the Iraqi government's inability to bridge political divisions.

"No one has the right to place timetables on the Iraq government. It was elected by its people," the Shiite leader said at a news conference in Damascus at the end of a three-day visit to Syria.

"Those who make such statements are bothered by our visit to Syria. We will pay no attention. We care for our people and our constitution and can find friends elsewhere," al-Maliki said.

The military said initial indications showed the UH-60 helicopter experienced a mechanical problem and was not brought down by hostile fire, but the cause of the crash was still under investigation.

It was one of two helicopters on a nighttime operation. The four crew members and 10 passengers who perished were assigned to Task Force Lightning, the military said. It did not release identities pending notification of relatives.

The U.S. military relies heavily on helicopters to avoid the threat of ambushes and roadside bombs — the deadliest weapon in the militants' arsenal — and dozens have crashed in accidents or been shot down.

The deadliest crash occurred on Jan. 26, 2005, when a CH-53 Sea Stallion transport helicopter went down in a sandstorm in western Iraq, killing 31 U.S. troops.

A U.S. soldier also was killed and three others were wounded Wednesday during fighting west of Baghdad, the military said separately.

Wednesday's deaths raised to at least 3,722 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003.

Elsewhere in northern Iraq, a suicide truck bomber targeted a police agency in northern Iraq, killing at least 27 people and wounding 65, police and hospital officials said.

Bush admn says nuke deal with India in 'national interest'

WASHINGTON, July 27: The Bush administration has sought to address concerns raised by several US lawmakers over the civilian nuclear deal with India, saying the terms of agreement was in the "national interest" and right for addressing global non-proliferation goals.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said,"we believe that this is the right deal for the US national interest, for our relationship with India, as well as for addressing our concerns about non-proliferation globally".

The spokesman said lawmakers on both the sides were being fully briefed on the terms of 123 agreement,adding "we're going to be talking in public about all of this" in upcoming briefings.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns is due in to brief mediapersons at the State Department on Friday morning, followed by an almost simultaneous
briefing in New Delhi by senior Indian officials.

A group of 23 lawmakers led by Democratic Congressman Edward Markey had earlier written to President George W Bush expressing concern on what may have transpired between the two negotiating sides.

The United States has said that it is not prepared to divulge details of the operating agreement of civilian nuclear deal with India which has already been approved by the Indian cabinet.

The US State Department has called Indian cabinet's approval of the implementation agreement on Wednesday as "positive" and has indicated that the administration of President George Bush would consider the accord by the end of the week.

The Cabinet Committees on Political Affairs and Security on Wednesday formally approved the draft of the nuclear cooperation agreement negotiated in Washington last week.

Indian Cabinet okays N-deal

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 25: The Government has cleared the text of the 123 agreement for the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, saying the final agreement hammered out recently had addressed all Indian concerns.

The draft of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement negotiated in Washington last week was placed before a joint meeting of the cabinet committee on political affairs (CCPA) and cabinet committee on security (CCS) on Wednesday.

Speaking to newsmen after the hour-long meeting, External Affairs Minsiter Pranab Mukherjee said "the CCPA and the CCS have approved the agreement." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chaired the meeting.

Delhi and Washington will make public the details of the agreement simultaneously at a mutually accepted time.

Mukherjee said India's concerns have been adequately addressed in the 123 agreement. "All concerns of India have been reflected and adequately addressed" in the agreement, he said after the meeting held at the residence of the Prime Minister.

The meeting was attended among others by Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Finance Minsiter P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and Surface Transport Minister T R Baalu.
India's concerns during the tough negotiations in Washington led by National Security Adviser M K Narayanan related to right to test nuclear weapons, guarantees of life time fuel supply and the right to reprocess the spent fuel.

To build a consensus over the deal, the Prime Minister will apprise Opposition leaders A B Vajpayee, L K Advani and Jaswant Singh on the salient features of the agreement.

As part of the consultations, he met the Left party leaders over dinner on Wednesday night.

Mukherjee said that the government would make a statement on the agreement on first working day of Parliament, which is slated to commence its Monsoon session on August 10. He suggested the government was open to the idea of a parliamentary debate as well.

Officials have said the agreement reflects Indian concerns on two of the major outstanding issues: reprocessing of spent fuel and assured nuclear fuel supplies for the lifetime of a reactor.

It is learnt that the agreement provides that if India undertakes a nuclear test, the US administration and the President would have to take a call. The US is bound by the terms of the 1954 Atomic Energy Act, but what has been agreed upon is not automatic suspension and return of all American nuclear supplies, should India test, but taking into account the circumstances of testing, if any," according to Lalit Mansingh, former Indian Ambassador to the US.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit India next month to finalise the nuclear deal and pave the way for an official visit of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington.

The details of the agreement have not been disclosed as it would have to be cleared by higher political authorities in Washington and New Delhi.

Rice's visit is expected to give further finality to the 123 Agreement that is expected to fully materialise during a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush.

Sunita Williams shares her space odyssey

WASHINGTON, June 30: After her return to earth Sunita Williams, for the first time shared her experience to the media on Friday.

She said, “I was excited to cover the Boston Marathon in space.” She ran a total of 26 and half mile in space to prove the fact that physical fitness was an important factor for an astronaut. NASA has been doing fantastic work for the last 40 years, she added.

An excited Sunita said, “The first thing I did was have a pizza, now I plan to go to the beach this weekend.”

After landing, she felt a little different in the first 48 hours.

Sunita became the second woman of Indian origin after Kalpana Chawla to blast off on a space mission and spend six months at the International Space Station where US shuttle Discovery left on completion of a 12-day repair job.

However, stormy weather in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Centre forced NASA mangers to abandon the first landing opportunity of space shuttle Atlantis returning to earth after a 13-day mission.

Thunderstorms within 55 kilometres and clouds within 8,000 feet of the landing strip at Kennedy Space Center forced mission managers to skip the first landing opportunity to touchdown in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Attempting to land so close to rain or clouds would violate flight rules, NASA had said.

While the image of Sunita Williams smiling and floating will stay etched in the minds of Indians across the country.

Deepening ties with India top on agenda: Hillary Clinton

Hillary ClintonNEW YORK, June 25: Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said that deepening of relations with India would be top on her agenda, if elected to the top post in the United States.

"Together, we have a lot of work to do," Clinton said amidst cheers at an Indian-American fund-raiser dinner with slogans like "American ready for change" and "Hillary ready to lead" forming the backdrop. An estimated USD 2.5 million was collected during the dinner.

"Deepening and strengthening" of US relations with India, the one of the world's oldest and largest democracies in the world, would be top of the agenda if she is elected US President, she said in her 15-minute speech.

Without directly referring to the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal now being negotiated between the two countries, she promised to ensure that neither the United States nor its friends remain dependent on the vagaries of foreign oil.

All in praise for the Indian-Americans contribution to the US, Clinton made a special reference to the contribution being made by Indiain medical system, a remark which attracted cheers from the audience in which a number of doctors were present.

Clinton, who did not mention about rival Barack Obama's campaign criticising her ties with the Indian-Americans, also said she valued the contribution made by the community to her campaign not only in financial terms but also in voluntary work they were doing for her campaign.

She also nostalgically spoke of her visit to India, referring especially to the beauty of Taj Mahal and praised the micro-credit scheme which, she said, is good for women and helping to uplift them.

'No too many holes in Indo-US nuclear deal'

WASHINGTON, June 25: Stressing that the Indo-US civil nuclear deal is not an arms control agreement or a trade off for New Delhi's strategic programme, a top Indian negotiator said there are not "too many gaps" in coming to the final understanding and that the two countries are "closing" it.

"Basically, I do not think there are many problems in the gaps. The issue is how you take broad political principles and make them into legal language," Indian High Commissioner to Singapore S Jaishankar said at the Carnegie Endowment Conference International Non-proliferation Conference here.

"The translation of the March 2006 and the July 2005 understandings into the 123-Agreement, it is really easier said than done because you are working on a legal document with a worst case contingency approach.

"You have to find very exacting, very rigorous language to reflect that. And that is where the challenge lies," Jaishankar, a top member of the negotiating team, said.

The Indian envoy was participating in a panel discussion on "Forging Non Proliferation Consensus after Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation".

The top Indian envoy may be officially participating at the Carnegie Conference but privately he is said to be carrying on the dialogue on the 123-Agreement meeting in the sidelines with senior officials of the Bush administration dealing with the issue.

Jaishankar made it clear that New Delhi was looking for a "clean and straightforward" exemption to the NSG guidelines on enrichment and reprocessing.

Atlantis returns safely

EDUARDS AIR FORCE BASE (California), June 23: US space shuttle Atlantis, bringing back Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams from her space odyssey, returns to earth safely. It landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 1.20 am IST after bad weather forced it to abort its first landing attempt in Florida.

Rain showers at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, forced flight controllers to postpone the first landing attempt slated for 2.16 p.m. (11.46 p.m. IST). On Thursday, bad weather had forced postponement of the landing twice.

The weather has failed to improve at Florida, US space agency NASA said.

Commander Rick Sturckow and Pilot Lee Archambault performed the de-orbit engine burn at 2.43 p.m. to begin the descent for a 3.49 p.m. landing at Edwards.

Landing has brought to an end a successful construction mission to the International Space Station. Atlantis launched June 8 and arrived at the station on June 10.

Sunita Williams has logged 195 days, the longest by a woman in space. She has not only set an endurance record for the longest space flight by a woman during her very first space journey, but with four excursions spread over 29 hours and 17 minutes also broke one for most space walks by a woman.

Atlantis also delivered a new station crew member, Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson. He replaced Williams.

'Indo-US defence ties reflects converging security interests'

WASHINGTON, June 23: Describing the commissioning of INS Jalashwa, a landing platform Dock, as "a new beginning" in its defence ties with the US, India has said it reflected the converging security priorities and interests of both countries.
"It is an important occasion. It marks a new beginning in the defence cooperation between the US and India and between the two Navies. This is the first ship acquired from the US for induction into our Navy," Indian envoy to US Ronen Sen said after formally commissioning the ship yesterday.

India joined a select group of nations operating a 'Landing Platform Dock' in high seas as INS Jalashwa was commissioned, providing the country's Navy the enhanced capability to move troops and equipment to greater distances.

"It reflects the converging security priorities and interests of both countries. In the context of a global partnership, the Defence Framework set out the common interests in maintaining security and stability, combating terrorism, protecting the free flow of commerce and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and associated materials, data and technologies," he said.

He also said India will procure six helicopters from the US and Indian pilots would be trained in US among a host of activities that would take place in the near future.

"The US and Indian Navies now cooperate in a bilateral and multilateral framework with the recent Malabar series of joint Indo-US exercises widening its scope and depth. The interaction between the Armies and Air Forces of the two countries have also increased," Sen said.

"We are both satisfied with the results and this is a very useful exchange for both countries," he added.

The Captain of the INS Jalashwa pointed out that the acquired and refurbished ship from the US Navy – earlier known as the USS Trenton -- has been operational until the time of the transfer earlier this year.

"We are almost ready. Within a week's time we would be sailing back," Capt Ahluwalia said. The return journey to Mumbai is expected to take about forty days that will include three stops along the way," he said.

The impressive commissioning of the amphibious INS Jalashwa -- the Sanskrit name of Hippopotamus -- with the motto of the vessel reading " The Fearless Pioneers" was attended by high ranking service personnel of the two countries.

Spaceflight is still dangerous, says Sunita

HOUSTON, June 17: With Atlantis being cleared for return to earth after repair of its thermal shield, Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams on Sunday said the problems faced by the US space shuttle showed that spaceflight is "still dangerous".

"We take spaceflight for granted and it's still pretty dangerous," Williams, who set to return to Earth on Thursday after setting a record for the longest uninterrupted space flight by a woman, said at a press conference from space.

Atlantis was on Saturday given clearance to return to Earth next week, as the shuttle's heat shield, which suffered a tear during lift off on Friday, was repaired by Mission Specialist Danny Olivas.

Adding to NASA's concerns was the failure of computers that control the space station's ability to orient itself and produce oxygen. But NASA officials said the crew was never in danger of running out of oxygen, power or essentials.

"We are living in an environment that is not really friendly for humans ....(The space station is) not just a tourist vacation place. It's a serious place and we are doing serious business and serious science up here," said 41-year-old Williams, who began her space journey on December 10.

NASA has been sensitive about the space shuttle's heat shield ever since the Columbia accident killed seven astronauts, including India-born Kalpana Chawla, in 2003.

A piece of insulating foam from the shuttle's external tank came loose during launch, striking Columbia's wing and allowing fiery gases to penetrate it during re-entry.

On being congratulated on her record by the Mission Control, Williams said "It's just that I'm in the right place at the right time."

"It's just an honour to be up here. Even when the station has little problems, it's just a beautiful, wonderful place to live," she said.

Asked by reporters how she celebrated, Williams said she was too busy "I think I had a couple of wrenches in my hand and that's pretty much how I celebrated."

Williams will be onboard Atlantis which is set to leave the International Space Station on Tuesday and land at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Thursday, NASA said, although mission managers may delay the departure by a day to buy more time for engineers to figure out why the computer system on the Russian side of the station crashed.

On Saturday, Russian flight controllers and the station crew were able to power-up two lanes of the Russian central computer and two lanes of the terminal computer by using a jumper cable to bypass a faulty secondary power switch.

"Flight controllers began sending commands overnight to restart some systems. The central computer is now communicating with the US command and control computer, and the terminal computer is communicating with US navigation computers," the space agency said.

Williams’ fellow crew members admitted that the problem with the computers had left them worried.

"In the very beginning, we were a bit worried about the status of the computers because, you know, this was the first time the whole set of Russian computers crashed at once," said flight engineer Oleg Kotov, who undertook the rewiring.

"This morning we finished the trouble-shooting activity," he added.

No compromise on right to reprocess, says Pranab

NEW DELHI, June 11: With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush agreeing on the margins of G-8 in Germany that the civil nuclear deal is "do-able", External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said Washington should not "transfer its problems" to New Delhi.

"They (the US) say that they have some problems. We say do not transfer your problems to us," he said in Karan Thapar's Devil's Advocate programme while discussing Washington's reluctance to grant reprocessing right to India.

On the differences between the two countries over the issue of reprocessing of the spent fuel, Mukherjee emphasised that the right to reprocessing is "absolutely necessary" for India, and said that the Government would not like the nuclear cooperation agreement to have any impact on the country's indigenous strategic programme.

Mukherjee also underlined that the reprocessing right to India will have to be specific to it as New Delhi is not a signatory of the NPT and its case cannot be compared with that of Japan, China or Eurotom.

India has expressed readiness to set up a dedicated reprocessing facility with safeguards in an effort to break the logjam in talks over the 123 agreement.

Mukherjee's comments on reprocessing rights is likely to assure the Indian nuclear scientists on their worries about this angle in the civil nuclear deal.

Singh and Bush committed to see 123 nuke pact soon

HEILLIGENDAMM, June 8: Notwithstanding differences on the civil nuclear deal, US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed their commitment to put in place soon a "mutually acceptable" agreement to implement it.

The commitment of the two leaders came during a ten-minute "pull-aside" meeting at the German sea resort of Heilligendamm as senior officials of the two countries deliberated on a fresh proposal by India to have a dedicated safeguarded facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in a bid to break the impasse.

"We think it is doable. We hope to do that (reach an agreement) soon," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters after the meeting on the sidelines of the G-8 meeting with leaders of the five outreach countries including India and China.

India's offer of a dedicated facility to store spent fuel under IAEA safeguards is expected to largely address US apprehensions of the material being diverted for making bombs.

New Delhi has been insisting on the right to reprocess spent fuel but Washington cites its legal constraint in accepting the plea.

Indian PM to discuss N-deal with Bush

NEW DELHI, June 6: The Indo-US civil nuclear deal will come up during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with President George W Bush in Germany on Friday on the margins of the G-8 Summit.

"I am sure it will be mentioned during the conversation. It is a very important part of the relationship," Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters in New Delhi on being asked whether the two leaders will discuss the civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Clearly not wanting to raise expectations of a breakthrough at the Singh-Bush meeting, Menon said "this is not a bilateral negotiating forum. There is other fora where we do that," he said, adding, these were "pull-aside" meetings where leaders spend a few minutes with each other.

After three days of talks here between Menon and U S Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns last week, both sides had made it clear that further negotiations were required to iron out differences.

During his four-day visit, Singh will meet Chinese President Hu Jintao and review bilateral relations, particularly assessing progress on implementation of agenda set out last November.

The Prime Minister will attend the meeting of G-8 leaders with leaders from India and the four other outreach countries--China, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico.

The issue of climate change is also expected to figure prominently in the meeting between Singh and Bush, in the backdrop of the latter's remarks that India, along with China, produces most greenhouse gas emissions.

New Delhi has serious objections to being solely blamed for affecting the environment and Singh is expected to convey to Bush that greenhouse gas emissions in India were linked to its energy security, a senior official said in New Delhi.

Some work left on Indo-US nuclear deal: US

NEW DELHI: The United States has said it has made some progress on a proposed agreement to operationalise the civil nuclear deal with India but there is still "some work" left to be done.

"I don't have a detailed readout for you. I know that they did make some progress, but there's still work left to be done," according to sean McCormack, US State Department Spokesman.

He was asked about the latest visit of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns to India for talks with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon on the '123 Agreement' and the status of the negotiations. "... let me do a little research for you and see if I can get back to you on exactly when the experts will reconvene.

But they did make some progress, but there is still work left to be done," he added.

The two countries are aiming at sorting out differences particularly on issues like reprocessing right, perpetuity of fuel supplies and continuance of the civil nuclear cooperation if India were to conduct an atomic test.

India has been insisting on having the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and is not ready to accept any legally binding clause in the agreement that could cap its strategic nuclear programme.

India-US hold productive talks on N-deal

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 2: India and the US have made "considerable progress" towards an agreement to operationalise the civil nuclear deal but there are still issues on which a gap exists, according to Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns left New Delhi on Saturday after three days of "intense and productive" discussions on the proposed agreement.

Apart from discussions with Menon, the US points man on the nuclear deal met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and his counterpart Shayam Saran.

Saying that the difference has narrowed down, Menon said Mukherjee has invited US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to visit India. The visit is expected to take place end-July or early August.

The Foreign Secretary said that the 123 Agreement took most of our time. "Several issues were open. The aim is to produce a bilateral cooperation civil nuclear agreement that reflects the July 2005 statement, March 2006 statements by Prime Minister Singh and President Bush and the statements made by the Prime Minister in Parliament."

He said both sides have come much closer on the issues that divide us. Without revealing what the difference were, he said "both sides want to clinch the civil nuclear deal rapidly in the interest of energy security and clean environmental issues."

During Burns meetings with the Prime Minister and others, the two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral ties and also the 123 agreement. The regional and other issues also came up for discussions.

Refusing to set a deadline for clinching the deal, Menon said it was not good to do so as many of the issues were interlinked.

Responding to a question, the Foreign Secretary said the US Administration has assured us that there was nothing in the Hyde Act that would come in between the implementation of the July 2005 and other statements.

Meanwhile, the External Affairs Minister said "there is no question of a deadlock." Striking a positive note, Mukherjee expressed optimism that "things will come through". He said "an agreement is yet to be reached at. As and when an agreement is finalised, you will come to know".

Menon said that no dates have been set for the next round of talks.

The two sides simultaneously also held technical level talks which were led by S Jaishankar, High Commissioner to Singapore and Richard Stratford, Director, Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security.

Prime Minister Singh and President Bush are expected to discuss the civil nuclear deal when they meet on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Germany next week.

The proposed 123 agreement aims at sorting out differences on various aspects, particularly the reprocessing right.

Forwad movement on Indo-US N-deal

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, June 1: India and the US continued their talks for the second day on Friday to iron out differences on a proposed agreement to operationalise the civil nuclear deal.

Officials said both sides were working hard and hoped the pact could be clinched "as soon as possible".

US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who arrived here on Thursday for talks on the 123 agreement, said he had "good discussions" with Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and special envoy on the nuclear issue Shyam Saran.

"I think we are working hard. We are working well and let’s hope it will be as soon as possible," Burns said when asked how far the final agreement was.

He was speaking to reporters after a meeting with Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma.

The talks on Thursday made progress but some differences remained.

The two countries are aiming at sorting out differences particularly on issues like reprocessing right, perpetuity of fuel supplies and continuance of the civil nuclear cooperation if India were to conduct an atomic test.

India has been insisting on having the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and is not ready to accept any legally binding clause in the agreement that could cap its strategic nuclear programme.

"Both of us (India and the US) understand how important this agreement is to our relationship", Burns said, adding "It is without any question in the best interests of both the countries."

Burns said the agreement was "mutually advantageous and there is no question in my mind that with continuous hard work and good spirit we can reach a final agreement and we look forward to that".

Noting that Washington has a great relationship underway with New Delhi, he said so much was happening between the two countries in the fields of agriculture, education, science and space apart from the civil nuclear deal.

Sharma said he had "very good discussions" with Burns on a wide range of issues including cooperation in space, science and technology, agriculture besides the nuclear deal, which is a "significant part" of the Indo-US relations.

Observing that there has been a paradigm shift in the Indo-US relations, Sharma said both the countries have "shared values and shared commitments when it comes to human relations and democracy.

The engagement between India and the US has become "multi-sectoral" and the civil nuclear energy cooperation was its significant part, he said.

"But equally important are the other areas for us to energise, whether it is the cooperation in space, science and technology, agriculture and also facing and defeating the challenges posed by forces of terrorism," he added.

Indo-US nuke deal to be finalised soon

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, May 25: Indo-US nuclear deal is inching towards happy ending and is expected to be finalised "very soon". An indication to this effect has been given by senior US and Indian officials.

Confirming that the deal is expected to finalised "very soon", US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said that the bilateral ties between the world's two largest democracies have far more depth and width.

The US is having better relations with India than at any time in the history of the bilateral relationship and with a recognition that not only New Delhi is going to play "its own" role in the international system but in a realisation that in any relationship there are going to be differences, said Rice.

She made the point that there is a tendency to look at the bilateral relations in the context of the civilian nuclear initiative but the fact of the matter is that the US-India relationship has far more depth and width.

"You tend to think only about the government-to-government piece, you tend to think only about the very important civil nuclear deal that we have concluded with India and hope to finalise very soon, but this is a very broad and deep relationship and I think it's only going to become more so over time," said Rice.

The top Bush administration official was responding to a query at an event along with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer at the Ronald Reagan Library at Simi Valley, California.
Early this week the two countries held technical level talks on the nuclear deal in London.

At the two-days of technical-level talks on 123 agreement India clarified "certain concepts" and the two sides agreed that further discussions were required to sort out the remaining differences.

"We clarified certain concepts and exchanged ideas making further progress towards a mutually-agreed text," according to Navtej Sarna, spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Sarna said the two sides agreed that some further work was required to "bridge the remaining gap" and the discussions will continue.

Conclusion of the agreement has been delayed due to differences between the two sides on issues like reprocessing right, perpetuity of fuel supplies and continuance of the civil nuclear cooperation if India were to conduct an atomic test.

The issue is expected to be discussed at the highest level early next month when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets US President George Bush in Germany on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit.

At another event, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, who is also President Bush's points man for the nuclear deal, said expansion of cooperation with India in the field of defence and counter-terrorism will be the next areas of focus in future bilateral relations between the two nations.

Burns also said that the positive history of the 21st century will be written in large part by Indians and Americans together for the growth of democracy, free-market economies and peace in Asia and around the world.

"When the history of our time in office is written, I am confident the great strategic leap forward in cementing the US-India strategic partnership will count among the most important accomplishments of Presidents (George W) Bush and (Bill) Clinton with Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh and his predecessors," Burns said.

Indo-US ties to focus on counter-terror ops: Burns

WASHINGTON, May 25: The United States has said expanding cooperation with India in the field of defence and counter-terrorism will be the next areas of focus in future bilateral relations between the two nations.

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns also said that the positive history of the 21st century will be written in large part by Indians and Americans together for the growth of democracy, free-market economies and peace in Asia and around the world.

“When the history of our time in office is written, I am confident the great strategic leap forward in cementing the US-India strategic partnership will count among the most important accomplishments of Presidents (George W) Bush and (Bill) Clinton with Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh and his predecessors," Burns said.

The senior State Department official, while speaking at The Heritage Foundation on Wednesday, elaborated on the kind of distances that have been traversed in the last several months, over and beyond the civilian nuclear initiative. He also spoke about the roadmap to be taken in the field of bilateral ties.

Burns also reiterated that growing military cooperation is emerging as one of the most visible aspects of bilateral ties.

“The 2005 Defence Framework is symbolic of a new era in closer military cooperation and sets forth a joint vision. The agreement reflects the increasing frequency, size, and complexity of military exercises between the Indian military and the United States,” he said.

“The presence of 42 US defence firms in India during the Aero India show in Bangalore in February is evidence of our companies' willingness to invest in long-term relationships with Indian counterparts. The possibility of increased defence trade makes this a bright spot for future development," Burns said.

American firms, he said, do not want to be merely suppliers to the Indian military, but are interested in becoming long-term partners during the modernisation and development of India's defence industry.

On the issue of terrorism, Burns went on to say that "we are working together to combat the global scourge of terrorism....India and the US have many lessons learned to share with each other to confront this mutual threat.”

"We have agreed to closer cooperation on terrorist financing, law enforcement, aviation security, and information sharing, as well as combating weapons of mass destruction terrorism and bio-terrorism," he said.

Noting that India and the US are victims of terrorism, he said, "we extend our condolences to the people of Hyderabad, who suffered in last Friday's attack on the beautiful Mecca Masjid, which I visited last December. The US intends to strengthen its commitment to India to be a good partner in combating terrorist threats".

The senior administration official also said that the US and India have an extraordinarily promising shared future.

"The multidimensional nature of our relationship, its range, and its depth all ensure that our ties will be enduring. With our shared future unbound, I am confident that we will be able to achieve the ambitious goals we have set out for our partnership," he added.

India, US hold Nuke talks; report further progress

LONDON, May 25: US Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said that both India and the US must make major compromises to complete the Indo-US Nuke Deal since a major effort would be mounted in the next few weeks to complete the deal.

The two countries held technical level talks on the deal, on May 21 and 22 in London.

At the two-days of technical-level talks on 123 agreement that ended on Wednesday India clarified "certain concepts" and the two sides agreed that further discussions were required to sort out the remaining differences.

"We clarified certain concepts and exchanged ideas making further progress towards a mutually-agreed text," according to Navtej sarna, spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Mr Sarna said the two sides agreed that some further work was required to "bridge the remaining gap" and the discussions will continue.

Conclusion of the agreement has been delayed due to differences between the two sides on issues like reprocessing right, perpetuity of fuel supplies and continuance of the civil nuclear cooperation if India were to conduct an atomic test.

The issue is expected to be discussed at the highest level early next month when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets US President George W Bush in Germany on the sidelines of the G-8 Summit.

Clinton stronger, Giuliani still strong

NEW YORK, May 9: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is "solidifying'' her lead over Sen. Barack Obama and others in the Democratic contest for the 2008 presidential nomination, a new Gallup Poll conducted for USA Today shows, and Rudy Giuliani holds a lead in the GOP.

In the first survey conducted since candidates in both parties – eight declared Democrats and ten declared Republicans – staged their first televised debate, pollsters have found little change in the standings – except for a "slightly better showing for Clinton.''

Read more about the poll here, and see the Gallup report:

The May 4-6 poll found 38 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying they are most likely to support Clinton for the party's nomination. Barack Obama is a "clear second'' at 23 percent, followed by Al Gore (with 14 percent) and John Edwards (with 12 percent.)

Clinton has regained a double-digit advantage after an earlier survey found a smaller – 31 to 26 percent – edge over Obama.

And if the name of Gore – the former vice president who ran for president in 2000 but says he isn't running this time around – is removed from the equation, Clinton gains more support: With a 45 – 27 percent margin over Obama.

The newest survey found little change in Republican preferences. Giuliani has held a significant lead over Sen. John McCain in each poll since February. In the May survey, 34 percent of Republicans and independent-leaning Republicans name Giuliani as their top choice for the party's nomination, while 20 percent say McCain.

Fred Thompson -- the actor and former Tennessee senator who is considering a candidacy – drew the support of 13 percent of those Republicans surveyed. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, also eyeing a candidacy, drew 8 percent, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 7 percent.

The survey of 1,010 adults conducted May 4-6 carries a possible overall margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. Among the 491 Democrats and Democratic leaners surveyed, the possible error is 5 percentage points. Among the 427 Republicans and Republican leaners surveyed, it's also 5 percentage points.

India, US put nuclear deal back on track

NEW DELHI, May 3: India and the US have put the landmark nuclear deal back on track with indications that the US may be veering around to granting a ‘consent’ on the vexed issue of reprocessing.

Foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, who went to Washington with a fresh mandate to “make it work,” sat through a couple of days of gruelling sessions with his counterpart Nick Burns to report “extensive progress” after the crucial round of talks widely seen as last-ditch effort to salvage the civil nuclear agreement.

The Indian side had carried alternative approaches to resolve all the seven issues on which there were disagreements between the two sides in what signalled its keenness to break the logjam. Menon unveiled India’s “constructive approaches” when he and Burns met for dinner on Monday night.

Sean McCormach, spokesman of the US state department, also termed the meetings as “excellent.”

With disagreement narrowed, Burns is to arrive in Delhi in the second half of May for what McCormach called “a final agreement.” Burns was scheduled to come anyway but his visit was contingent on progress on the agreement.

On Wednesday morning, officials of the two sides were back at the negotiating table in Washington, to clean up the text with the fresh changes.

“The discussions were positive and the US is encouraged by the extensive progress that was made on the issues. We look forward to resolving the outstanding issues in the weeks ahead,” McCormach said, adding that Menon’s talks with officials including secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had yielded “extensive progress.”

HuM, JeM, LeT have 'no business to be in America': US

WASHINGTON, May 1: The Bush administration has designated three Pakistan-based terrorist groups - Harkat ul-Mujaheddin (HuM), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), as "Foreign terrorist organisations", prohibiting US residents from extending material support to them.

This also denies individuals representing these groups from entering or doing business in the US.

In all 42 groups, active in different parts of the world, figure in the list and its purpose is to identify and isolate these groups by encouraging friends and allies of the US to deter its citizens from supporting them, says the US State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, released in Washington on Monday.

India, US discuss collaboration in science and tech

WASHINGTON DC, May 1: India and US has discussed continued and new cooperation on protecting the global environment, underscoring the importance of ongoing collaboration in science and tech and public health.

They explored increased coordination of efforts to strengthen democratic principles and institutions worldwide.

These discussions took place here yesterday at the fifth meeting of the US-India Global Issues Forum.

Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula J Dobriansky led the US delegation, while the Indian delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.

The US-India Global Issues Forum, which convenes annually and alternates between New Delhi and Washington, was initiated in New Delhi in October 2002.

The two delegations engaged in productive discussions on working together to address global challenges, said a joint press release issued on Monday night at the end of the forum meeting.

The two sides examined new and expanded areas for US-India cooperation.

Those areas included issues related to the promotion of democratic values and human rights, protection of the vulnerable, and environmental conservation and sustainable development.

Menon, who is on a two-day visit here, will meet US Undersecretary of State for political affairs later today to discuss the US-India civilian nuclear deal the negotiations on which appear to have reached a stalemate.

According to sources, efforts would be made to reconcile the differences over the 123 agreement, a prerequisite for the implementation of the nuclear deal.

Menon has arrived in Washington following the failure of the efforts of the experts of the two countries to make any headway at their meeting early this month at Cape Town in South Africa.

Sources maintain that the differences are over India's insistence to retain its right to conduct nuclear tests, if necessary, in future, which apparently is unacceptable to the United States.

Sources say, the acceptance of India's demand envisages an amendment to the US non-proliferation laws which the US finds difficult to concede.

US Senate passes bill for troop withdrawal from Iraq

WASHINGTON DC, April 27: The Democrat-controlled US Senate on Thursday passed legislation for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, setting the stage for a showdown with the White House with President George W Bush immediately promising to veto the bill.

Only two Republicans -- Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Gordon Smith of Oregon-- joined the Democrats in the 51-46 vote, which fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the president's veto.

The House of Representatives already passed the bill by a margin of 218-208 last night.

"It is amazing that legislation urgently needed to fund our troops took 80 days to make its way around the Capitol. But that's where we are," said Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.

The USD 124.2 billion bill requires troop withdrawals to begin 1st October, or sooner if the Iraqi government does not meet certain benchmarks.

"This legislation is tragic," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and fellow Republicans derided the measure as "dead-on-arrival" at the White House.

But the Senate's dean and Appropriations Committee Chairman, Sen Robert Byrd countered: "Under the Constitution, Congress has a duty to question the war policies of this or any president."

Indian girl student declared killed in US varsity shooting

VIRGINIA, April 18: An Indian girl student Minal Panchal, who was missing since Monday's shooting rampage in the Virginia Tech University, has been declared killed and is the second Indian to lose life in the worst school shooting rampage in the US history.

Panchal, hailing from Mumbai, was a first year student in the University.

"The Embassy has learnt with great sorrow that apart from the Indian American Professor G V Loganathan, a first year student Minal Panchal is also among the victims," a senior official of the Embassy said.

Two senior Indian Embassy officials visited the Virginia Tech campus and promised all help to the Indian students shocked dazed over the Monday's campus carnage, described as the worst in American history.

Minister for Community Affairs in the Embassy Anil Gupta and Consular Officer Kishen Varma on Tuesday night met the Usha Loganathan, the wife of Professor G V Loganathan, who fell victim along with 31 others to the massacre carried out by Cho Seung-Hui, 23 of South Korean origin.

The two Indian diplomats conveyed Ambassador Ronen Sen's personal condolences to the Professor's bereaved family.

The professor, who is survived by his wife and two daughters, had been teaching at the varsity for the past 15 years.

Massacre in US University campus; 33 dead

VIRGINIA, April 17: The death toll in Monday's shootout in Virginia Tech University has risen to 33, including the man who shot himself after spraying bullets on the students.

The gunman, said to be in the student age group, was not officially identified but media reports quoting law enforcement officials said he was an Asian American.

No motive was officially stated but some reports said he had grievance against a professor and others stated that he was trying to find his girl friend.

In the first incidents, two people were killed and questions are being asked as to why law enforcement officials and the University authorities did not take steps to evacuate the building or secure the classes.

The second incident - shooting in the classroom - came two and quarters hours later and it accounted for most of the casualties.

Addressing a press conference, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said that they thought the shooting at dorm was a domestic dispute and authorities had no reason to believe that the second incident was going to occur.

They went by the assumption that the gunman has fled the campus.

Steger said they sent e-mails to the students warning them of the incidents but with 11,000 people driving into the University in the morning, "It is difficult to get the world out to all."

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum did not give any details, saying that the investigations were still on.

Taliban, Qaeda find havens in Pak: Gates

WASHINGTON, March 14: United States Secretary of Defence Robert M Gates has joined Pentagon's top general in pointing to continued Taliban and Al-Qaeda activity on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan as a key problem.

"Taliban and Al-Qaeda are both using some of the wild areas on the Pakistani side of the border as havens," he said in a television interview on Tuesday with the Pentagon Channel.

"There clearly is a problem along the Pakistani border. Now, we're working with the Pakistanis to try and deal with that problem," Gates said.

Earlier, in a separate interview published Tuesday, Pentagon's top general said Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's policy of courting tribal leaders on the border with Afghanistan has not prevented cross-border incursions by Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives.

"It is proper for us to point out to President Musharraf that people are continuing to come across the border," chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Peter Pace, told the Chicago Tribune.

Noting that there has been an increase in cross-border attacks, he said that a controversial treaty that Musharraf signed with tribal chiefs in north Waziristan province has not produced the results that the Pakistani leader hoped it would in reducing cross-border attacks by Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents.

However, Gates did not think that other nations are providing much support to Al-Qaeda. "I think that individuals do and they have a variety of fronts and other ways that they get money.

Similarly, I think the Taliban are pretty much on their own, nobody much liked their governance in Afghanistan."

Asked about support from US allies for the war effort in Afghanistan, he said, "Actually, several countries have stepped up their commitments in Afghanistan in the last two or three weeks, the Australians, the British and others have announced that they're sending more troops into Afghanistan."

"... It really is consistent, I think, with our strategy that when it comes to dealing with terrorists, it's better to fight on their ten yard line than to fight on our ten yard line, and NATO has embraced that mission and so all of the NATO countries in one way or another engaged in Afghanistan, as well as a number of countries from Europe and elsewhere that aren't members of NATO," Gates said.

"I think this is very important in terms of the legitimacy of the Afghan government, but also in terms of the effectiveness of the overall activities in Afghanistan, both the fighting and the economic development," he said.

Turning to the situation in Iraq, Gates cited the American commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus to say, "it's really early to make any judgments" as the Baghdad security plan is only been underway for a couple of weeks or so, but "the early signs are encouraging."

"The Iraqis have, to a considerable extent, fulfilled the obligations that they have made so far in terms of appointing their own commander for the Baghdad area, appointing two sub-commanders, bringing the troops in that they promised while the original battalions that showed up were light, 50 to 60 per cent," Gates said.

Asked how would he measure success in Iraq, the top Pentagon official said US will first see the security area whether the Iraqis are keeping the commitments that they've made to Washington in terms of appointments, the structure, providing the promised troops and the government staying out of political interference with the military actions.

However, "success of the plan, militarily, the whole part of clear hold and build remains to be seen.

The build parts remains to be seen, and those will take longer for us to evaluate how they're doing," Gates said.

Indo-US N-deal not to fuel arms race in SAsia: Boucher

WASHINGTON, March 8: Stressing on the importance of Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, a senior US official has assured lawmakers in his country that the agreement would not in any way fuel an arms race in South Asia.

"I appreciate the effort the Congress put into passing the legislation. It was landmark legislation and, we think, very important, very well crafted in terms of letting the president and the prime minister move forward in a way that is prudent and in a way that meets their own expectations that they put down when they negotiated this," Assistant Secretary of South and Central Asia Richard Boucher told lawmakers at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

"There have been a lot of studies and a lot of statements -- you heard them all during the debate -- about what this would do for India's military programmes, whether it would do anything at all. I still believe it wouldn't; I don't think the incentives are there," he said.

“As far as the potential for an arms race in the region, we've talked quite clearly to both India and Pakistan. Both of them tell us they don't want to see an arms race; they have no intention of starting one. And indeed, as you yourself noted, they're not only talking, they're making a lot of progress,” the senior official added.

"On the issue of military versus civilian, the essence of the deal was a separation between the two and a separation that can be maintained and will be maintained by the Indians based on their decisions and policy, but also in cooperation with some of these international agreements."

Boucher, said there were a series of safeguards that will be negotiated between India and the United States which the Congress will get a chance to clear.

"But indeed, there are a series of safeguards that will be negotiated between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency. That is one piece of the package that will be looked at, will be ready for the Congress to look at when we ask you to vote again on finalising the deal.

"We'll have a standard bilateral agreement between the United States and India that has the provisions required by law to make sure that there is adequate legal basis for our cooperation. Congress will get a chance to look at that as well, when it comes down to it," he added.

In his prepared remarks to the Committee, Boucher went beyond the civilian nuclear deal to speak of the kind of issues going on between the two countries, including consultations on the Doha Round expressing confidence that the strategic relationship will deepen and grow.

"Beyond the civil nuclear agreement, we're building a even stronger relationship with India in a whole host of areas. We're deepening our security ties. We're expanding our economic and business cooperations. We're working with India in the Doha Development Round negotiations," he said.

Observing that India and Pakistan have acted in a "statesman-like" manner during their anti-terror talks, the United States has said there has been a considerable expansion in the range of dialogue between the two countries and a number of new ideas for resolution of issues like Kashmir have been brought in.

"I think it's quite positive. They've both acted in a very statesman-like manner. They've expanded the range of discussions and I think the depth of discussions as well," Boucher said when the issue of India and Pakistan came up at a hearing of the Middle East/South Asia sub-committee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“There are a number of new ideas in play on the question of Kashmir and dealing with some of the specific disagreements like Sir Creek and Siachen.”

“But they're also discussing other things-- confidence-building in nuclear and conventional forces. They just had this week the counter-terrorism discussions, the new mechanism to discuss terrorism problems and discuss the bombing of the train which affected them all so deeply,” Boucher said.

Asked if he believed if the current framework for discussions made sense and it is in the mutual interest of both New Delhi and Islamabad to continue the progress, Boucher replied "Absolutely".

"I think the signs are quite positive, and certainly the United States has been very encouraged," he said.

Mohd Ali named for Gandhi peace prize

NEW YORK, March 8: Legendary boxer Mohammad Ali has been nominated for the 2007 Peace Prize given by the US Gandhi Foundation.

"The nomination has been made in recognition of Ali's efforts to reduce global warming. You cannot find a better candidate," the foundation's chairman Subhash Razdan said.

Ali has reached out to diverse groups, including Muslims, children and the sports community, he said. Razdan's group promotes Mahatma Gandhi's policies of non-violence, community service and social justice.

Other nominees this year include former American Vice President Al Gore, Bolivian President Evo Morales and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

White House warns against Iraq pullout

WASHINGTON, Feb 24: Brushing aside criticism from the White House, Senate Democrats said Friday their next challenge to President Bush's Iraq war policy would require the gradual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops beginning within 120 days.

The draft legislation also declares the war "requires principally a political solution" rather than a military one.

The provisions are included in a measure that would repeal the authority that lawmakers gave Bush in 2002, months before the invasion of Iraq, and replace it with a far more limited mission.

Democrats have said they are likely to seek a vote on the proposal within two weeks. The odds against it ever becoming law are high, and the White House and Senate Republicans were quick to denounce it.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration "of course" would oppose an attempt to alter the existing authorization, and he warned that a pullout of U.S. troops could bring chaos to Iraq. "We're operating under a mandate," he said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dismissed the proposal as an attempt by Democrats to produce "what could best be described as a Goldilocks resolution: one that is hot enough for the radical left wing, but cool enough for party leaders to claim that they are for the troops.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the White House is not only confused, but in denial.

"They can spin all they want, but the fact is that President Bush is ignoring a bipartisan majority of Congress, his own military commanders, and the American public in escalating the war," said Jim Manley. "The American people have demanded a change of course in Iraq and Democrats are committed to holding President Bush accountable."

As currently drafted, the Democratic legislation says the military "shall commence phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq not later than 120 days" after the bill's enactment. The goal is to complete the withdrawal by March 31, 2008.

In the interim, the military would be required to transition to a new mission involving "targeted anti-terrorism operations," as well as providing training and logistical support for the Iraqis and helping them protect their own borders.

The measure also pledges that Congress will "continue to support and protect" the armed forces, renewing a commitment that was included in an earlier nonbinding measure that also criticized Bush's plans to deploy an additional 21,500 troops.

Republicans blocked action on the measure last week, demanding that Democrats allow a vote on an alternative that would rule out cutting off funds for the troops.

At the White House, Fratto said that changes in the existing authority for use of military force were unnecessary even though it dates from the days when Saddam Hussein was in power and there was an assumption — later proved false — that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The White House said that Democrats were in a state of confusion about Iraq but left room for compromise.

"There's a lot of ... shifting sands in the Democrats' position right now," Fratto said. "We'll see what Democrats decide to do."

He said the president would judge anything that comes out of Congress by whether it gives him "the flexibility and resources" necessary to proceed with Bush's decision to send 21,500 additional combat troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad and Anbar Province.

"It's clear that if there are efforts to remove troops out of Baghdad, there are consequences for Baghdad," Fratto said. "The only credible analysis that we've seen — the (National Intelligence Estimate) report and others — are pretty clear on this, that it would bring chaos to Baghdad."

Senate Republicans recently thwarted two Democratic attempts to pass a nonbinding measure critical of Bush's troop-increase plan. Asked if Bush would oppose any effort to revoke his war authorization, Fratto said, "Of course we would."

In the House, a nonbinding anti-war measure was approved last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she expects the next challenge to Bush's war policies to be a requirement that the Pentagon adhere to strict training and readiness standards for troops heading for the war zone.

Rep. John Murtha the leading advocate of that approach, has said it would effectively deny Bush the ability to proceed with the troop buildup.

But Bush's Republican allies on Capitol Hill have fought that as denying reinforcements to troops already in the war zone, leading to the alternative approach in the Senate.

The measure Bush won from Congress in 2002 authorized the president to use the armed forces "as he determines to be necessary and appropriate ... to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

At the time, the world body had passed resolutions regarding Iraq's presumed effort to develop weapons of mass destruction.

US commerce chief to visit India to push American exports

WASHINGTON, Feb 9: US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has said he will travel to India next week to hold talks with government and business leaders in a bid to boost American exports.

"American companies should be exporting more to India, and India should work with us to make sure American exporters and businesses are treated fairly," Gutierrez said on Thursday, ahead of his February 13-14 trip to New Delhi.

"My visit will focus on expanding our bilateral economic relationship and working to increase US exports to India," he said.

Gutierrez will meet with senior government officials, including Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, and will address members of the American Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

The meetings will include discussions on enforcing intellectual property rights, reducing red tape for US companies trying to do business in India and the United States-India civilian nuclear deal signed by President George W. Bush in December, according to a statement from Gutierrez's office.

Last fall, Under Secretary for International Trade Frank Lavin led the largest US government business development mission in history to India to explore export opportunities.

The United States is India's largest trading partner.

Between January and November of last year, bilateral trade rose to USD 29 billion from 2005, with US exports alone rising 25 per cent, the Commerce Department said.

Saran holds talks with Burns on civil nuke deal

WASHINGTON, Feb 2: Amidst concerns by India over certain aspects of a proposed agreement to operationalise the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, Prime Minister's special envoy Shyam Saran held talks with the Bush Administration's pointsman for the nuclear initiative Nicholas Burns to remove obstacles on way of implementation of the historic pact.

Saran had an extensive meeting on Thursday with Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and discussed, among other things, conceptual issues that have a bearing or impact on the 123 Agreement that is being currently negotiated between India and the United States.

Part of the focus of the current discussions is also on the "next steps" that are involved in the civilian nuclear initiative such as status of India's negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency on India-specific safeguards and the 45 member Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Saran continues his discussions on Friday with senior officials of the Bush administration, including National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley at the White House, on the civilian nuclear deal especially as it pertains to "taking stock" since the passage of the legislation and the signing into law last December.

As a part of his visit, the former Foreign Secretary will also exchange views with former senior officials of Republican and Democratic administrations who are either currently in the private sector, in Universities or Think Tanks.

Hillary Clinton enters 2008 presidential race

Hillary ClintonNEW YORK, Jan 21: Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton entered the 2008 U.S. presidential race on Saturday with a swipe at President George W. Bush as she capped years of speculation about her White House ambitions.

"I'm in. And I'm in to win," said the former first lady who is aiming to become the first woman elected U.S. president.

The second-term U.S. senator from New York leads a pool of five Democratic hopefuls including Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who is expected to be her main competitor within the party and whose bid could make him the first black president.

Clinton promptly took aim at the the unpopular Republican she wants to replace in the White House when his second, and final, four-year term expires.

"After six years of George Bush it is time to renew the promise of America," she said in a videotaped message on her Web site.

The wife of former President Bill Clinton made history with her bid for U.S. Senate in New York in 2000, becoming the first former first lady to win one of the most powerful political jobs in the United States.

Clinton, 59, was re-elected by a huge margin to a second Senate term in November and is seen as a front-runner among Democratic contenders.

US death toll in Iraq reaches 3,000

WASHINGTON, Jan 1: The day after Saddam Hussein's execution, the death toll for Americans killed in the Iraq war reached 3,000 as President Bush struggles to salvage a military campaign that has scant public support.

The death of a Texas soldier, announced Sunday by the Pentagon, comes as the administration seeks to overhaul its strategy for a conflict that shows little sign of abating. The tally of 3,000 members of the U.S. military killed was a figure compiled by a news agency since the war's beginning in March 2003.

In large part because of discontent with the course of the war, voters gave Democrats control of the new Congress that convenes this week. Democrats have pledged to focus on the war and Bush's conduct of it.

Three thousand deaths are tiny compared with casualties in other protracted wars America has fought in the last century. There were 58,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War, 36,000 in the Korean conflict, 405,000 in World War II and 116,000 in World War I, according to Defense Department figures.

Even so, the steadily mounting toll underscores the relentless violence the massive U.S. investment in lives and money — surpassing $350 billion — has yet to tame.

A Pentagon report on Iraq said in December the conflict now is more a struggle between Sunni and Shiite armed groups "fighting for religious, political and economic influence," with the insurgency and foreign terrorist campaigns "a backdrop."

From mid-August to mid-November, the weekly average number of attacks in the country increased 22 percent from the previous three months. The worst violence was in Baghdad and in the western province of Anbar, long the focus of activity by Sunni insurgents.

Though U.S.-led coalition forces remained the target of the majority of attacks, the overwhelming majority of casualties were suffered by Iraqis, the report said.

The American death toll was at 1,000 in September of 2004 and 2,000 by October 2005.

Sen. Edward Kennedy called the figure a "tragic milestone" and said the government owes its troops "a new policy that is worthy of their heroism and brings them safely home."

Asked about the 3,000 figure, deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said that the president "will ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain."

"We will be fighting violent jihadists for peace and security of the civilized world for years to come. The brave men and women of the U.S. military are fighting extremists in order to stop them from attacking on our soil again," Stanzel said.

President Bush said the nation is mindful of the troops' dedication and sacrifice.

"In the New Year, we will remain on the offensive against the enemies of freedom, advance the security of our country, and work toward a free and unified Iraq," Bush said in a statement released from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Having launched the war against the advice of a number of nations, the Bush administration never got a huge international contribution of troops, meaning foreign forces involved in the fighting are overwhelmingly American.

The death toll shows it. As of late December, the British military has reported 127 deaths in the war so far; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 18; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; and Denmark, six. Several other countries have had five or less.

Bush signs landmark Indo-US N-deal

WASHINGTON, Dec 19: US President George Bush signed the landmark civilian nuclear agreement with India, that will allow civilian nuclear fuel and know-how to be shipped to India, setting up a major shift in US policy as Washington tries to deepen ties with a rising India.

The deal finally sailed through the US Congress on December 9 allowing the export of civilian nuclear fuel and technology to India for the first time in the more than 30 years since it first tested a nuclear device.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the deal "reflects not only the growing importance of India as a partner and ally with the United States, but I think we have the growing importance of the United States, also, as an ally with India."

Even so, experts said, there were significant hurdles to be crossed. "There are still many steps before it becomes something that is complete," Michael Levi, a science and technology expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, a respected US think tank, told newpersons.

They include devising a bilateral agreement incorporating all technical details of the deal as well as nuclear safeguards for India that must be endorsed by the international community.

Popularly known as a "123 Agreement," the bilateral pact will be the sole binding document defining the terms of the anticipated nuclear commerce arising from the deal, which the US Chamber of Commerce says could open up a whopping 100 billion dollars in opportunities for American businesses.

The bilateral agreement will have to be approved again by the US Congress, to be controlled next year by Democrats known for their strong non-proliferation views. "The completion of a 123 Agreement is really a codification of the major and difficult decisions we have already made," said Nicholas Burns, the top US negotiator of the nuclear deal.

"And, of course, there is a long process towards the finish line, but it is not going to be, in my judgment, as difficult as the last 18 months," he said of the deal, agreed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush way back in July 2005.

One key component of the bilateral agreement is nuclear safeguards, which India, a non-signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), would be subject to under a separate agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the global nuclear watchdog.

The other is the guidelines governing civilian nuclear commerce to be drawn up with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The pace of the negotiations for the bilateral pact would depend on how far the Indians will go in accepting IAEA safeguards aimed at ensuring that New Delhi does not use any US nuclear materials or technology to expand its military nuclear arsenal. "I think the primary obstacles going forward are in crafting an appropriate safeguards agreement with the IAEA and an appropriate agreement at the NSG," Levi said.

"The main point of conflict is over how permanent the safeguards will be," Levi said. Washington stopped nuclear cooperation with India after it conducted its first nuclear test in 1974.

Under the US legislation passed last week, if Indian conducts another nuclear test, the US president "must terminate all export and reexport of US-origin nuclear materials, nuclear equipment, and sensitive nuclear technology to India."

Indian atomic scientists and military officials are wholly opposed to a moratorium on nuclear testing, and likely will declare this provision a deal-breaker, said Stratfor, a leading US security consulting intelligence agency.

The other "big sticking point" for India, it said, was a US provision -- although non-binding -- on securing New Delhi`s cooperation in containing Iran`s sensitive nuclear program.

"Though the requirement has been watered down, the mere inclusion of an Iran clause will be cause for protest by India`s vocal leftist parties," which provide needed support for India`s ruling Congress-led coalition, Stratfor said.

The US Congress created a rare exception for India from some of the requirements of the US Atomic Energy Act, which currently prohibits nuclear sales to non-NPT signatories. "But before the waiver can come into effect, the US President has to certify that the IAEA and NSG agreements with India meet certain standards," Levi said.

Majority of Democrats prefer Hillary Clinton

NEW YORK, Dec 18: A majority of Democrats would like to see Hillary Clinton nominated as the party's candidate for next President if the choice comes down between her and African American Illinois Senator Barack Obama, a new poll shows.

The Newsweek poll found 86 per cent of respondents saying that if their party nominated a woman president, they would vote for her if she were qualified for the job. When asked if their party nominated an African American for president, 93 per cent that they would vote for him or her.

But if race for nomination boils down between Clinton and Obama, 50 per cent prefer Hillary against 32 per cent who favour Obama.

Bush hails Congressional approval of India-US nuke deal

WASHINGTON D.C., Dec 11: US President George W Bush has welcomed congressional approval of the India-US nuclear agreement, saying that ''the bipartisan legislation will strengthen the strategic relationship between the two countries and deliver valuable benefits''.

''I am pleased that our two countries will soon have increased opportunities to work together to meet our energy needs in a manner that does not increase air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, promotes clean development, supports nonproliferation, and advances our trade interests,'' Bush said.

He called it an ''extraordinary legislation'' and said, ''I look forward to signing this bill into law soon.'' Congress passed the US-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act shortly before adjourning for the remainder of 2006. The measure lifts the 30-year-old ban on the export of US nuclear technology and fuel to India.

The legislation codifies the US-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation agreement, announced on 18th July, 2005, by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington, and then signed in early March 2006 during Bush's state visit to India.

The original version or the legislation was passed by the House of Representatives on 26th July, 359-68 votes. The Senate, however, made changes in the bill before approving it, 85-12, on 16th November.

In the US, different versions of an approved bill are reconciled before being sent to the president. In this case, the House and Senate conferees agreed on a final product on 7th December.
First the House and then the Senate passed this reconciled version of the bill on 8th December.

A key element of the agreement is the provision of assistance for India's civilian nuclear energy sector, which currently provides only 3 per cent of the country's electricity. India wants to raise that percentage for economic development purposes.

The US sees the agreement as a way for India formally to comply with some of the same tenets codified in the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty, which New Delhi never signed.

Under the deal, India has agreed to separate its nuclear reactors used for civilian purposes from those designated for military use.

Further, it has agreed to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor its 14 civilian reactors and to bring them under IAEA safeguards, to continue its moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, and not to transfer nuclear technology to third parties.

US Senate India Caucus co-chairman. John Corny said the passage of this cooperative agreement bring India into the mainstream of international nonproliferation efforts, while lessening India's dependence on fossil fuels.

CII President R Seshasayee, CII said ''This is a vote of confidence in India''. The CII statement said, ''India can now expand its Energy programs and CII hopes that the Nuclear Suppliers group countries will fully co-operate in recognising India's position as a responsible nuclear power.''

Burns coming to fine tune nuclear deal with India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Dec 4: The US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns arrives here on Wednesday to address India's concerns over the civil nuclear legislation that a Senate-House conference was expected to hammer out next week.

During his three-day stay in India, Burns, who is the key US negotiator for the civil nuclear deal with India, will meet Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and other senior officials to discuss bilateral and regional issues, including the US-India civil nuclear cooperation initiative.

After the US Senate cleared the enabling bill with an 85-12 vote last month, Burns has had extensive discussions over telephone with India's chief negotiator Shyam Saran over New Delhi's concerns about the language and other provisions in the legislation.

In New Delhi, Burns is expected to take up with Saran how to take forward their negotiations over a so-called "123 Agreement" - a term for a peaceful nuclear cooperation pact with a foreign country under the conditions outlined in Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act.

It is significant that the senior US official travels to India after taking part in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial in Brussels. As part of the India-US Strategic Dialogue, he will also discuss defence cooperation and trade and investment relations with the Indian officials.

Washington has time and again declared that it considers successful implementation of the India-US nuclear deal as a key element of a new strategic partnership between them.

"We look forward to working with India to fully implement this agreement, to fulfilling the commitments made by President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July of 2005 and March of 2006," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said after the Senate vote.

Both Rice and Burns have expressed the hope that the Senate-House Conference would address the remaining issues of concern to New Delhi and Washington, with the latter promising to "do our best" to see if their sensitivities can be dealt with at the conference.

New Delhi has expressed concern about some provisions in the Senate bill and unpalatable references to Iran in the House version. In a telephonic talk, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had conveyed to President Bush that the Bill in its final form would accommodate India's stated concerns.

Section 106 of the Senate bill for one prohibits the export of any equipment, materials or technology related to the enrichment of uranium, the reprocessing of spent fuel, or the production of heavy water.

Another provision, Section 107 requires an end-use monitoring programme to be carried out with respect to US exports and re-exports of nuclear materials, equipment, and technology sold or leased to India.

Burns is hopeful that the administration would be able to address these and other concerns as it works with the Senate and House conferees charged with drafting a common bill for the full Congress to approve and send to the White House.

"We are talking to lawmakers and we hope the conference will iron out any remaining issues," Burns said, suggesting that there could be "subtle revisions" in some of the language.

Burns also said the US would also help India present its case before the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). "I have great confidence that the NSG will agree by consensus to provide the same relief to India."

In a speech to the Asia Society in New York recently, Mr Burns said the US and India are forging a "natural global partnership" economically, militarily and culturally in one of the most significant shifts in US global policy in a decade.

While the US-India civil nuclear accord has received the most public attention, he said there is actually an "ambitious agenda" of cooperative efforts under way through official government channels, private businesses and non-profit organizations.

He said that the United States and India finally "have found each other" and are now "increasingly close partners in global politics" on a range of interests that flow from both the "bright side" and "darker forces" of globalisation.

"We can safely say, I think, that we'll be partners in global economics and trade and investment. We're also going to have a very strong military relationship between our two countries," he said.

He cited a litany of joint projects that included supporting the emergence of democratic institutions in countries around the world; cooperating in science and technology, engineering, agriculture, communications and global climate change; and fighting illicit drug trafficking, trafficking in women and children and global terrorist organizations.

"We've never seen this kind of intensity of effort and purpose in the US-India relationship. It is absolutely what the United States should be doing to affect the kind of relationship we want to have with India," he said.

The cooperation between the Indian and US navies and air forces to help the victims of the 2004 tsunami demonstrated that the two governments could play a role in bringing relief to victims of natural disasters and might be relied on in other common security interests, Burns added.

US Govt asks N-firms to start talking with Indian Cos

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Nov 22: Within days of the US Senate endorsing the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, the Bush administration has advised top American energy companies to start negotiations with their Indian counterparts without waiting for the final approval of the agreement.

In a video conference from his office in Washington DC with a select group of Indian journalists here, the US Under Secretary of International Trade, Mr Franklin L Lavin, said "we have advised the US companies to start their business negotiations with Indian companies right away."

Mr Lavin leads the largest-ever US trade mission to India next week. "Over 200 leading CEOs of the major companies have signed up for the two-day US India Business Summit in Mumbai from November 29," he said. Later, the delegates would fan to other parts of India for one-to-one discussion with leading Indian companies, he said.

Mr Lavin said the CEOs of US nuclear energy majors are also part of the trade mission. Some of the leading American companies and organisations that could do business in the nuclear energy area are GE Energy, Nuclear Energy Institute, Thorium Power, Westinghouse Electric, BWXT, Converdyn and WM Mining Company. These firms are engaged in different areas like fuels and power generation.

The US-India business summit in Mumbai is being jointly organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

To a question on insurance and financial services, Mr Lavin said Indian businesses could benefit immensely if these sectors were liberalised. While he praised strong Indian intellectual property right laws, he said there were some gaps that were required to be filled.

US Senate overwhelmingly passes Indo-US N-deal

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI/ WASHINGTON, Nov 17: The Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government received a shot in the arm when the US Senate early Friday morning overwhelmingly passed the much awaited Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement by a solid bipartisan margin of 85 votes to 12.

After the day-long debate, the US law makers rejecting several killer amendments, including the Feingold and the Boxer amendments, that would have either wrecked the deal, forced renegotiation or made the implementation stage quite difficult.

The Senate version now has to be reconciled with the House version that cleared sometime back in a Conference Committee; and both chambers will now have to approve the legislation in its final form prior to the ending of the session in the middle of December.

The vote on the civilian nuclear deal was the last of the day as Senators went home for the Thanksgiving break. They are to reassemble for the final phase of the session starting December 4.

Political pundits consider the passing of the bill as a personal victory for President Bush who has made Congressional passage of the measure as one of his top foreign policy objectives after his Republican party's electoral defeat in which it lost control of both the Houses of Congress for the first time in 12 years.

The agreement, reached in principle between President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, seeks to establish a New Delhi-specific exception to the US law that bans nuclear trade with countries like India that have not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treat (NPT).

President Bush, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi have welcomed the passage of the bill.

Bush said "it will further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries and deliver energy, non-proliferation and trade benefits to the citizens of two great democracies."

Manmohan Singh said there was still a long way to go for the pact to become "living reality". Aspects of the two bills on the deal passed by the US House of Representatives and the Senate were "not identical" and the process of reconciling them would "have to take on board our concerns", Singh said at the HT Leadership Summit here.

"We still have a long way to go before nuclear cooperation between India and the US becomes a living reality," said the Prime Minister.

While welcoming the passage of the bill, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, has said that the Congress and the UPA would not accept anything which is outside the July 18 agreement. Responding to question after delivering her inaugural speech at the Fourth Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on "India: The Next Global Superpower?" here, Mrs Gandhi said "Our position - the position of the Congress party and the UPA (United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is that nothing will be acceptable which is outside the 18 July agreement."

Pointing out that the bill has to be reconciled in the joint meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives in Washington, Gandhi said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government would study and formulate its position over it. "We sincerely hope that once they sit down and reconcile all those areas which are not acceptable to us are not included and excluded. Only then we will welcome it and will be very happy," Gandhi said.

Pranab Mukherjee said: "This, undoubtedly, reflects the very broad bipartisan support which this initiative enjoys. "President Bush and Secretary of State Rice have worked personally to ensure the passage of the Bill and we express our sincere appreciation for their tireless efforts," he said.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said the agreement was a "pioneering initiative" on the part of India towards meeting its nuclear energy needs in future.
Singhvi said the nuclear deal had moved forwards on the touchstone of equality, energy and engagement.

US Ambassador David C Mulford said the bill approved by the Senate was within the parameters of the agreement between the two governments and the 'very few' problem areas remaining will be removed to make the final legislation "acceptable". Mulford said the 'historic' agreement can be implemented after consensus of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and India's deal, which can all happen within months.

Bush vows to see civil N-deal through Senate

WASHINGTON, Nov 10: Notwithstanding the Democrats' emphatic victory in U.S. Congressional elections, President George W. Bush on Thursday vowed to push through the civilian nuclear deal with India in the coming `lame duck' session of the Senate.

"I'm trying to get the Indian [nuclear] deal done, the Vietnam [trade] deal done and the budgets done," Mr. Bush told a press conference.

Mr. Bush's remarks are certain to be welcome in New Delhi, especially against the backdrop of apprehensions about the fate of the Bill in view of the Democrats' impressive show and the reservations of the proliferation hawks in the party about the deal with India. The civilian nuclear deal has been identified as one of the top priorities of the administration in this session of the Senate, the other two being the Vietnam Trade Bill and the Domestic Surveillance Bill.

New Delhi is optimistic the Senate will take up the nuclear deal in the brief session, likely to take place on November 15-16, to enable the completion of the Congressional processes by the year-end. Basing its hope on the "broad-based bipartisan support" the deal enjoys, India sees a "very good chance" of the Bill securing the Senate's approval.

On its part, New Delhi maintains that the parameters of the proposed law have been clearly outlined by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament and that is "really the template".

Allaying fears that a power shift from Republicans will impede the passage of the deal, Senate Democratic party leader Harry Reid said they wanted the deal with India.

Joe Biden, a top Democrat on the Senate's Foreign Affairs panel, said lawmakers were "ready to go with the India bill." He said it would take ``at least a day's worth of debate, no more than two,'' to settle the bill in the Senate. With the deal receiving bipartisan support, he said it will be cleared ``with a very large vote.''

Democrats win majority in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON, Nov 10: In a rout once considered almost inconceivable, Democrats in the United States won a 51st seat in the Senate and regained total control of Congress after 12 years of near-domination by the Republican Party.

The shift dramatically alters the government's balance of power, leaving President George W. Bush without Republican congressional control to drive his legislative agenda.

Democrats hailed the election results, issued calls for bipartisanship and vowed to investigate administration policies and decisions.

Democrats completed their sweep on Wednesday evening by ousting Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia, the last of six Republican incumbents to lose re-election bids in a midterm election marked by deep dissatisfaction with the President and the war in Iraq. Allen lost to Democrat Jim Webb, a former Republican who served as Navy Secretary in President Ronald Reagan's administration.

Democrats had 230 seats in the House, 12 more than the number necessary to hold the barest of majorities in the 435-member chamber.

``In Iraq and here at home, Americans have made clear they are tired of the failures of the last six years,'' said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrat in line to become Senate Majority leader when Congress reconvenes in January. As watershed elections go, this one rivalled the Republican takeover in 1994, which made Newt Gingrich speaker of the House, the first Republican to run the House since the 1950's President Dwight Eisenhower administration.

This time the shift comes in the midst of an unpopular war, a Congress scarred by scandal and just two years from a wide-open presidential contest. Democrats will have nine new senators on their side of the aisle as a result of Tuesday's balloting.

Six of them defeated sitting Republican senators from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Rhode Island, Montana and Virginia. The other three replaced retiring senators from Maryland, Minnesota and Vermont.

US reduces visa fee by 30 percent for Indians

NEW DELHI, Nov 9: With effect from Thursday, the United States has reduced the visa fee for Indian nationals by 30 percent from 150 Dollars to 100 Dollars, according to David Mulford, US Ambassador to India.

Announcing this at a press conference, Ambassador Mulford also said there was now no backlog of Indian visa seekers to the US. ''The structure of visa fees has been changed between the two countries. Also there is no backlog,'' he said.

The Ambassador said an Indian could now get visa to the US within a week. This had been done in view of the big demand for US visas among Indians, he added.

Democrats sweep elections, Rumsfeld quits

WASHINGTON, Nov 9: Democrats swept Republicans from power in the House of Representatives and moved to within one seat of victory in the Senate on Wednesday in a sharp rebuke of President George W. Bush that led immediately to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld`s resignation.

The move by Rumsfeld followed huge Democratic gains in the US Congress in elections fueled by voter anger over the Iraq war and Bush`s leadership.

Democrats gained about 30 seats in the House in Tuesday`s voting and picked up five of the six Republican Senate seats they need for a majority. They led in the other one, Virginia, putting them near control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 12 years.

Bush said he was "obviously disappointed" in the election results. "The election has changed many things in Washington but it has not changed my fundamental responsibilities." He said, however, that it was "time for new leadership" at the Pentagon.

A potential recount and possible legal challenges in Virginia could delay the final result, dredging up memories of the 2000 presidential election recount that lasted five weeks.

Virginia Democrat James Webb led Republican Sen. George Allen by about 7,000 votes out of 2.3 million cast. The final vote counting could take a week, with a winner certified on November 27 and any recount stretching into December, leaving Senate control uncertain.

The Allen campaign indicated it did not plan to concede before the process ended. "We`ll see where the official tally stands on November 27 and we`ll come back and visit with you then," Allen adviser Ed Gillespie told reporters in Richmond, Virginia.

In Montana, Democrat Jon Tester was projected to narrowly beat Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, although the possibility of a recount remained.

The big Democratic victory, fueled by public discontent with the war in Iraq, corruption in Washington and Bush`s leadership, was likely to increase pressure for a change of course in Iraq.

The Democratic victory gives the party control of House legislative committees that could investigate the Bush administration`s most controversial decisions on foreign, military and energy policy.

Democratic control of the House will make outspoken liberal Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California the first female speaker and could slam the brakes on much of Bush`s agenda and increase pressure for a change of course in Iraq.

Bush telephoned his congratulations to Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, pledging to work with them. He invited Pelosi and the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, to lunch at the White House on Thursday.

All 435 House seats, 33 of the 100 Senate seats and 36 of the 50 governorships were at stake. Democrats beat Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate and one of the Democrats` biggest targets this year.

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, running as an independent, beat Democratic anti-war challenger Ned Lamont, who had defeated the former vice presidential nominee in the Democratic primary.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sailed to an easy re-election win in New York, setting up a likely 2008 presidential run.

"This is a wake-up call to the Republican Party," said Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona on a news channel.

Democrats also scored big wins in governors` races, taking six seats from Republicans and winning a national majority that could give them an edge in the 2008 presidential election.

In California, however, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won easy re-election.

In ballot initiatives on social issues, voters in seven states rejected same sex-marriage, providing one of the few bright spots for conservative Republicans in the elections.

Democrats have promised early votes on much of their legislative agenda, including new ethics rules, a rise in the minimum wage, reduced subsidies to the oil industry and improvements in border and port security.

Early exit polls showed voters disapproved of the war in Iraq by a large margin, but they said corruption and ethics were more important to their vote.

Democrats hammered Republicans all year for spawning a "culture of corruption" in Washington, with four Republican House members resigning this year under an ethics cloud.

The party was hit by allegations about influence peddling, links to convicted lobbyists and a Capitol Hill sex scandal involving Republican Rep. Mark Foley`s lewd messages to teenage male congressional assistants.

The campaign-trail debate was dominated by Iraq, and Bush defended his handling of the war to the end despite job approval ratings mired in the mid-30s. He questioned what Democrats would do differently and predicted Republicans would retain control of Congress.

Jindal re-elected, other Indian-Americans taste success too

WASHINGTON, Nov 8: India-born Republican Bobby Jindal on Wednesday made it to the US House of Representatives for the second straight term while some other Indian-Americans also posted success at the state-level elections.

Jindal`s victory for the first time in 2004 ended a five-decade drought for Indian-Americans in the House even as several other prominent members of the community had been quite successful politically at the state level.

The success of Jindal, who won from Louisiana by securing a huge 88 per cent of the total votes cast, could not be replicated by maverick Republican challenger in Pennsylvania Raj Peter Bhakta who managed to get only 34 per cent of the votes in the 13th district against his Democratic incumbent who received 66 per cent of the vote.

Bhakta made national headlines not too long ago when trying to prove a point about lax security at the borders of America, he crossed a point at the Rio Grande with an elephant entourage and a Mariachi Band in tow.

Well-known politician Kumar Barve has won in Maryland`s district 17, a distinction also posted by Saqib Ali in Maryland`s district 39.

But Rano Singh-Sidhu`s attempt in Arizona for the post of state treasurer fell flat with Singh getting 49 per cent of the vote as opposed to her opponent who topped 55 per cent. Singh tried for the state legislature unsuccessfully in 2004 as well.

Elsewhere in Ohio state legislature, Jay Goyal was successful with 63 per cent of the vote and in Kansas, Raj Goyale won his seat with 56 per cent of the vote.

In Minnesota, State Senator Satveer Chaudhry won by 65 per cent of the votes. In Iowa, representative Swati Dandekar won by a margin of more than ten per cent.

However, systems analyst Neeraj Nigam could not succeed at the Hustings in Virginia.

Bush sees possible Iraq-Vietnam parallel

WASHINGTON, Oct 20: As the inferno of violence refuses to extinguish in the war torn country, the US Prez George W Bush said that he sees a possible parallel in the increase in violence in Iraq and the 1968 Tet offensive that prompted US to lose support for the Vietnam War.

In response to a news channel interview on Thursday whether he agreed with an opinion by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the current violence in Iraq was ''the jihadist equivalent of the Tet offensive.''

Bush responded: ''He could be right. There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election.''

However the White House said the President had not been making the analogy that Iraq had reached a similar turning point. Instead, he was saying that insurgents were possibly increasing violence to try to influence coming US elections.

Bush and other top US officials have long resisted comparisons to the Vietnam War when critics have suggested that Iraq has turned into a quagmire. They also have stepped back from adamant declarations of progress as sectarian violence ratchets up, with more than 2,750 American troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis killed since the US-led invasion in March 2003.

Bush has taken a more flexible tone on Iraq, saying he is open to adjusting policy, as the November 7 elections approach with his Republican Party facing the possibility of losing control of the US Congress over an unpopular war.

Communist forces lost the Tet offensive, but it was a major propaganda victory and is widely considered a turning point of the war in Vietnam, prompting support for the conflict to deteriorate. President Lyndon Johnson's popularity fell and he withdrew as a candidate for re-election in March 1968.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said the President was not trying to say that it was the turning point in Iraq, as the Tet offensive has come to symbolize for Vietnam. ''That is not an analogy we're trying to make,'' Snow said. ''We do not think that there's been a flip-over point, but more importantly from the standpoint of the government and the standpoint of this administration, we're going to continue pursuing victory aggressively.''

Bush has maintained that Iraq is not embroiled in civil war and continues to insist that U.S. troops will not leave until Iraqis can take over security for their country. Further Bush told the news channel that not every American soldier would be out of Iraq before he leaves office in about two years. There are about 144,000 US troops currently in Iraq.

''Look, here's how I view it,'' Bush said. ''First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence'" he said.

''They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw,'' he said.

US tells Pak to get terror groups to stop attacks on India

WASHINGTON, Oct 12: The US has asked the Pakistan government to use its influence with terrorist groups to completely stop attacks on India, Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns said on Thursday.

"We obviously wish to see no more terrorism emanating from Kashmiri separatist groups," Burns told reporters here.

"We have told the Pakistani government that we would hope that the Pakistani government uses influence with these terrorist groups to curb and stop altogether any attacks on India," he said.

On the evidence India has shared with the US regarding Pakistan`s involvement in the July 11 train bombings in Mumbai, Burns said the state department is yet to study this in detail.

Aircraft hits Manhattan building; 2 dead

NEW YORK, Oct 12: A small plane crashed into an Upper East Side high-rise Wednesday, shooting flames out the windows, raining debris on the sidewalks below and rattling New Yorkers' nerves exactly one month after the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. Police confirmed 2 people are dead.

Christine Monaco, a New York spokeswoman for FBI, said there was no indication of terrorism, but that officials "have been sent to the scene as a routine." FAA spokesman Jim Peters said all three New York City-area airports were operating normally. "The initial indication is that there is a terrible accident," said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke.

The aircraft struck the 20th floor of a building on East 72nd Street, said Fire Department spokeswoman Emily Rahimi. Witnesses said the crash caused a loud noise, and flames were seen shooting out of the windows.

"It's a mob scene with police and helicopters circling," said Sandy Teller, watching from his apartment a block away. "There's a dozen ambulances and lots of firefighters waiting on 72nd, on the corner. There's lots of stretchers ready, gurneys. And lots of emergency people waiting."

The crash struck fear in a city devastated by the attacks of Sept. 11 five years ago. Witnesses said sirens echoed across the east side of Manhattan as emergency workers rushed to the scene. The crash triggered a loud bang. Broken glass and debris was strewn around the neighborhood. "There's a sense of helplessness," Teller said. "Cots and gurneys, waiting. It's a mess."

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was too early to determine what type of aircraft was involved, or what might have caused the crash in the middle of a hazy October afternoon.
Richard Drutman, a professional photographer who lives on the building's 11th floor, said he was speaking on the telephone when he felt the building shake.

"There was a huge explosion. I looked out my window, and saw what appeared to be pieces of wings, on fire, falling from the sky," Drutman said. He and his girlfriend quickly evacuated the building.

The address of the building is 524 E. 72nd Street - a 50-story condominium tower built in the late 1980s and located near Sotheby's auction house. The Belaire Condo, developed by William Zeckendorf Jr., has 183 apartments, many of which sell for more than $1 million.

Several lower floors of the building are occupied by doctors and administrative offices, as well as guest facilities for family members of patients at the Hospital for Special Surgery, hospital spokeswoman Phyllis Fisher said. No patients were in the high-rise building and operations at the hospital a block away weren't affected, Fisher said. The Hospital for Special Surgery specializes in orthopedic operations.

N Korea will 'rue the day' of nuke test: Bush admn

WASHINGTON, Oct 10: The Bush administration has said Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea, will "rue the day" he made the decision to go in for the nuclear tests as it is looking for ways to make it "very costly" for Pyongyang. "I'm telling you, he (Kim) is going to really rue the day that he made this decision.

"At this point I'm not prepared to say precisely what the elements are. But I can assure you we're looking for ways to make it very, very difficult, very costly for North Korea to get the technology for these weapons of mass destruction, very difficult for them to get the money for these weapons of mass destruction," Hill said in a television interview.

He also indicated that it will intensify the discussions with China with a view to firm up sanctions against Pyongyang to ensure that the punitive measures work. "I can't speak for the Chinese, but I can assure you we are very much in touch with the Chinese. Secretary Rice was up half the night. And one of her prime people that she was talking with were the Chinese. So we're going to really intensify our consultations with China. China is clearly -- clearly -- upset," Hill said.

"The Chinese have indicated they're going to work with us in New York, and we'll see what we get. But I think we can get something that will be far more than just some sort of angry letter," he added.

"I think there have always been two main problems with North Korea doing this. First of all: destabilizing the region, encouraging proliferation in the region; secondly selling or transferring fissile material to nonstate actors".

"So we are concerned on both scores, and we really have to do something about this. But you know, we can't do it unilaterally. This is not a US problem. We need to deal with our partners, allies, and that's what we're doing. And I think a key country in all of this will be China," Hill said.

Hill argued that during the six party talks there had been many bilateral sessions but the bottom line was for North Korea to get rid of the weapons programmes it had been building for the last three decades.

"..in the six-party process, we had many, many, many bilateral discussions. These were discussions where it was just me in the room and the head of the North Korean delegation in the room. We had very small meetings, one-on-one across the table. We did a lot of this type of bilateral discussion.

"This is not a question of the format of the discussion. This is a question of a regime that basically hasn't made the fundamental decision to get rid of these weapons programs that it's been working on developing for some 30 years" Hill said on CNN.

"You know, this didn't just happen last year or during the Clinton administration; this happened way back in the 1970s when they first put that ramshackle nuclear reactor together" the senior official remarked.

US set to cut deal with Taliban

WASHINGTON, Oct 5: Alarm bells are going off in the US political and strategic community over the Bush administration's weighing the option of bringing Taliban back into the power equation in Afghanistan.

First signs of impending overtures to Taliban from Washington came last month when Bush and his aides gingerly supported Pakistan's agreement with Taliban in the Waziristan province, a deal which was panned in strategic circles as a sell-out to extremists at the expense of US and NATO ground troops in Afghanistan.

Undeterred by the criticism, the Bush subsequently persuaded Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is vehemently opposed to the deal, to 'wait and see' how the Pakistani deal works.

Now comes advice from Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that the Bush administration should consider bringing Taliban back into the power equation in Kabul.

Arguing that Taliban fighters were "too numerous and too popular" to be defeated, Frist told reporters after a visit to Afghanistan last weekend that "You need to bring them (Taliban) into a more transparent type of government... And if that's accomplished, we'll be successful."

"Approaching counterinsurgency by winning hearts and minds will ultimately be the answer. Military versus insurgency one-to-one doesn't sound like it can be won. It sounds to me... that the Taliban is everywhere," he was quoted as saying.

The remarks sparked outrage in US political-strategic circles with critics panning Frist, who is a doctor by profession, of waving the white flag before elements who helped perpetuate 9/11.

"Senator Frist now suggests that the best way forward in Afghanistan is to coddle the Taliban by welcoming Taliban members into a coalition government, as if 9/11 had never happened," Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi chafed in a statement. Frist, who is a Republican Presidential aspirant in 2008, was also criticized by John Kerry.

Not that the Democrats have a great record with the fundamentalist yahoos first mid-wifed by the Pakistani military to get a foothold in Afghanistan and gain strategic depth against India, which prefers the more broad-based and pan-Afghan Northern Alliance.

The Clinton administration turned a blind eye to Islamabad's perverse machinations that gave birth to the Taliban and swallowed its barbaric rule for several months in the mid 1990s before Madeleine Albright, shook up by the mullahs treatment of women, began to have doubts. Washington still lumped Taliban till 9/11.

Analysts believe that Pakistan has never really foresaken the Taliban even post 9/11, hoping to return its barbaric wards to power in Kabul and retain its strategic foothold once US withdraws from Afghanistan under domestic public pressure and military setbacks.

Ironically, evidence of Pakistan's role in sustaining Taliban came in a stunning PBS documentary telecast Tuesday night, even as Frist made his pitch.

Titled Return of the Taliban, the documentary minced no words or images in showing Musharraf's army continued to patronize militants and had essentially cut a deal with them in Waziristan after being humiliated by al Qaeda.

The documentary also showed that Musharraf is doing nothing to stop jihadis from returning to Afghanistan to wage war, in violation of his commitment to the Bush administration. It called Pakistan "a failed state... a Taliban sanctuary that had facilitated the return of al-Qaeda."

But the Pakistani dictator bristled at questions about why Pakistan's commitment, shouting, "If Pakistan isn't doing more, who the hell is doing more?"

Among those who worked on the documentary was Hayatullah Khan (to whom the work was dedicated) a reporter who obtained proof that US forces had killed rebel leader Nek Mohammed in a Predator attack inside Pakistan, contrary to Islamabad's claim that it was not allowing US to act inside Pakistan and Pakistani forces had killed him.

According to Khan's family, an embarrassed Pakistani establishment subsequently kidnapped Khan and killed him. He was found with five bullet wounds on his body, hands tied with government issued handcuffs.

Prospects of US Senate taking up nuke deal appear dim

WASHINGTON, Sept 26: The U.S. Senate is unlikely to consider a nuclear cooperation deal with India before lawmakers leave for a long break at the end of this week, putting aside one of President George W. Bush's top foreign policy initiatives until at least November, according to congressional staffers and analysts.

The Indian proposal, which would reverse decades of U.S. anti-proliferation policy, has strong supporters in both political parties and was overwhelmingly endorsed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July. But several high-profile bills probably will distract lawmakers as they scramble to finish work before they break for election campaigning.

"For this week, the Indian deal is number 58 on the top 10 list,'' said Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and a former Pentagon official. Sokolski and other analysts said lawmakers could take up the accord when Congress reconvenes after the November 7 elections.

Timing is important, because congressional passage is only one of several hurdles that must be cleared before the United States could begin shipping civilian nuclear fuel and technology to India.

While a late push could occur to consider the bill this week, time is running out and the legislative agenda is full. Republican lawmakers, who control Congress, appear eager to make progress on issues of national security, which they see as key to a strong showing in elections that will decide whether their hegemony over both chambers in Congress continues.

Observers say such issues are likely to take precedence over the Indian proposal, which requires New Delhi to allow international safeguards and inspections at its civilian nuclear plants in return for U.S. civil nuclear trade.

"The Congress has got an awful lot on its plate, and this is not a simple deal,'' said Michael Krepon, a South Asia analyst at the Henry L. Stimson Center.

India and the Bush administration want quick passage because they say the accord will provide crucial energy to a friendly country that has a strong nonproliferation record.
Critics, meanwhile, are urging patience. They say with the deal, the United States would be supporting a massive increase in India's nuclear stockpile.

Daryl Kimball, director of the private Arms Control Association, said the bill "deserves a thorough debate, with sufficient time to address the deep nonproliferation flaws in the proposal. It would be a grave mistake for the Senate to rush consideration.''

Bush is asking lawmakers to exempt New Delhi from U.S. laws that bar nuclear trade with countries that have not submitted to full international inspections through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Other potential barriers include the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an assembly of nations that export nuclear material, which must approve an exception for India. Once technical negotiations on an overall cooperation agreement are settled between India and the United States, Congress then would stage another, expedited vote.

Bush says would go after bin Laden in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Sept 22: As the world most wanted terrorist still away from the eagle grip, the US President, Mr George Bush, has asserted that if he had firm intelligence that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, he would issue the order to go into that country after the al Qaeda leader.

Asked in an interview with a news channel whether he would issue an order to go into Pakistan to kill or capture bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, Bush replied: ''Absolutely.''
He added: ''We would take the action necessary to bring them to justice.''

His statement drew an immediate response from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who said Pakistan would handle such a situation itself.

When Bush's remarks were put to Musharraf at a news conference at the United Nations, the Pakistani leader replied: ''We wouldn't like to allow that. We'd like to do that ourselves.''
He is also disputing US and Afghan government statements that he is not doing enough to crack down on militants operating in the rugged border area.

Bush is intent on portraying his administration and party as tough on terrorism before the November election, in which his Republican party is fighting to keep control of Congress.
Bin Laden and Zawahri have eluded a US manhunt over the five years since the 11th September attacks. They are believed to be hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

''But we're on the hunt. We'll get him.''Last week, Bush dismissed as an ''urban myth'' that his administration was not focused on hunting for bin Laden.

The Washington Post reported that the search for the al Qaeda leader had gone ''stone cold, and Democrats say the Iraq war had shifted resources away from trying to find bin Laden.

US will honour N-pact with India: Mulford

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Sept 14: Assuring full support to the agreement reached between the two countries, the United States has said that it will honour the agreement that has been reached between New Delhi and Washington on civilian nuclear cooperation.

Speaking to members of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce at the "3rd Indo-U.S. Economic Summit" here, American Ambassador to India David C. Mulford said Ambassador Mulford said Washington will honor the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement that was reached by President Geroge Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Ambassador Mulford said, "The procedural movements and debates in American politics are often baffling to our friends around the world, but we will honor the agreement that has been reached. The goal posts are not being moved; it is a civil nuclear agreement and when finally implemented will mark a new level of trust and cooperation in our partnership."

He expressed his hope that ties between the two countries would be strengthened through the civil nuclear deal.

Amid fears that the vote in the US Senate on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal may be delayed, the American Ambassador hoped the house would clear the bill this month and sought expeditious negotiations on the bilateral agreement.

"We hope the senate will vote this month," he said and added "if there is Senate action, we believe there will again be a large majority."

He said the two bills then must be reconciled in a conference between the House of Representatives and the Senate and the final bill must be passed by both houses for signature by President Bush.

The fears of a delay have arisen in the wake of an insistence by some senators that the legislation on the civil nuclear deal be taken up for voting along with a domestic bill that provides for the US signing an additional protocol with the IAEA on nuclear safeguards.

Mulford, said while the civil nuclear agreement was being ratified by the Congress, the two countries must complete negotiations on a bilateral pact for peaceful atomic cooperation for the change in law to be effective.

"We both need to move forward on this legal framework expeditiously, working hard to complete the process before the present Congress completes its term this year," he said.

His remarks came ahead of a crucial meeting between Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and his US counterpart Nicholas Burns in New York to work out details of the bilateral nuclear agreement.

"President Bush understands the Prime Minister's concern about certain aspects of the draft legislation and has indicated to him our intention to complete the process," Mulford said.

The changes in US laws will bring about a cascade of revisions in India's international status. They will open the nuclear market not only for American companies but also for the entire international community, he said.

Mulford said this required the Nuclear Suppliers Group to alter its rules to allow civil nuclear commerce with India.

In addition, New Delhi will have to conclude a safeguards agreement and additional protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a sign of its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation.

Declaring that this would end India's isolation, Mulford said it would also mark the start of a new era for addressing the country's energy needs.

The Ambassador said "our defense relationship has expanded dramatically in just a few years and we are working together to combat terrorism, a threat to both our countries; the bombings in New Delhi, Varanasi, Mumbai and Malegaon underline the urgency of this task."

Sant Chatwal hosts another Capitol reception to lobby US-India N-deal

WASHINGTON, Sept 12: The US-India civil nuclear agreement received yet another rare bipartisan support when more than 30 lawmakers from both houses of the US Congress attended a reception co-hosted by New York-based hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal on Capitol Hill.

The lawmakers, many of them Democrats, who attended the reception came out in support of the deal, saying it will help both India and the US.

Prominent among the lawmakers who attended the evening reception at the Senate Russell Office Building were: Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY); Reps Brad Miller (D-NC), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and US Under Secretary of State, Nicolas Burns.

The other hosts of the event were several Indian American groups, including the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, Indian American Forum for Political Education and the National Federation of Indian Associations. This was the second lobbying event Chatwal co-hosted, the first being in May.

The lawmakers made out a compelling case as to why the nuclear deal was crucial to the larger economic interests of the two countries and to furthering bilateral relations.

Sen Biden said he expected the deal to pass the US Congress by an overwhelming majority and did not foresee a possibility of filibuster.

Sen Schumer echoed Biden's views, saying "this deal should sail through the Congress as India is a very responsible nuclear state."

Sen Cliton noted the deal was pivotal "for the long-term strategic interest of both nations."

Rep Ackerman's one liner was perhaps the most hard-hitting statement of the evening aimed at Pakistan. "If you want to be treated like India, then be like India," he said in his remarks.

Burns echoed the Bush Administration's stand that the deal should be viewed in the larger perspective of US and India being natural allies. "We have a very different relationship with Pakistan, but our bonding with India is impeccable."

Bush admn keen US Senate pass Nuke deal unchanged

WASHINGTON, Sept 4: With the US Senate getting into a month-long session on Tuesday, the Bush administration is keen that the Indo-US civilian nuclear act is passed without any changes keeping in mind India's apprehensions and objections to certain provisions.

"The administration is keen on the Senate voting on the S 3709 (United States India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act) as it stands today. The administration is quite aware of India's apprehensions, concerns and objections in the Senate Bill especially as it pertains to Sections 106 (Prohibition on certain exports and re-exports) and 107 (End Use Monitoring programme)," sources said.

They said that apparently the thinking was not to start an argument with Senators now when the Senate gets into session tomorrow after its summer break, but use the Conference stage to apply pressure to drop the provisions.

Indications were this Bill would come up in the full chamber sometime towards the third week of September. But no one either on Capitol Hill or elsewhere put a firm timeline.

It has been pointed out that the White House and the administration are keen to have the Senate pass the measure; and prior to the Senate going on recess last month the administration was said to have leaned on Majority Leader Bill Frist to schedule the vote. That could not be done for time constraints as there were other pressing issues and votes.

The administration was aware of its urgency given that the Senate has just about a month left before its target adjournment; and the order of business on the nuclear deal is such that the Senate has not only to pass it, but have the versions reconciled so that it and House of Representatives can pass the final versions before adjournment of the second session of the 109th Congress on October 6.

All unfinished legislative business will have to be re-introduced in the new 110th Congress when it reconvenes in January in 2007; and if by any chance the character of the Congress changes in the 7th November elections, it would be a totally different ball game after that, sources said.

The substantive part of the Bill and the expected objections from Senators aside, there is a larger procedural impediment that is yet to be sorted out -- taking out the Title Two of S 3709 that has no relevance to India but a Protocol having to do with the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Several Conservative Republicans are reportedly against the Additional Protocol and want it to be debated and voted upon separately. Law makers like Senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Ensign of Nevada are not quite satisfied with the kind of obligations Washington is signing on to by way of an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, especially as it pertains to inspections and payments and even perhaps a perceived interference in the fashion Americans would want to run their programmes.

"Tags" are a routine part of the American legislative process but in the present instance Title 2 of S 3709 is more than just a "political nuisance" as it runs the risk of jeopardising the major and substantive part of the legislation dealing with the United States-India deal.

Diplomatic sources point out that the Additional Protocol will have to be "de-tagged" from S 3709 for the simple reason that the Bill in its original form will have difficulty in rounding up Republican support.

The apprehension being that those Conservatives law makers inclined to support the United States-India civilian nuclear deal will vote against the Senate Bill if the Additional Protocol remains a part of the measure.

But there is confidence that the administration and its allies in the Senate will bring sufficient pressure to "de-tag" the US-IAEA Additional Protocol from the Bill and efforts to this end will be one of the major behind-the-scene developments taking place over the next several days.

'Indo-US nuke deal can get through Congress by month-end'

WASHINGTON DC: The United States Ambassador to India David Mulford expressed confidence that the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal that cleared the House and Senate Committees last month can be through Congress by the end of month or before law makers break away for their summer recess.

"The votes that have been accomplished in the committees thus far are very positive. There are very strong majorities and they are bi partisan. Secondly we know that there are some outstanding issues that would have to be resolved between the two Bills. It is not unusual and that is a process that will be done in Conference," he said.

"We are aware of the provisions that trouble the Indian government and we will work where possible to address those issues. But bear in mind that of course the Congress of the United States is a sovereign body, a branch of our government. They have their own ideas about some of these things, so we have to work the process through and with India which is also a democracy" Mulford pointed out.

"The next phase... is the floor votes that in effect will result in the change of law. The next step is to complete the 123 negotiations, the bilateral agreement...I would say that 60 percent of the negotiations is accomplished. We have the balance it to do. That is a question of scheduling, bringing the people back together again which we hope will be done in the next week or so; and when that happens I look forward to the bulk of those issues being resolved in the next round.

"So I don't think it is impossible that we would be in a position to finish the 123 agreement within a period of weeks and then we would be able to move forward in the next phase.There is also the NSG,the IAEA--those initiatives have to be completed as well and all these things will have to move together" he added. "But I am convinced that the momentum is strong;but I would agree that there is a lot left to be done.It is important to keep at the process to make sure that it gets done. With the right will... this is a deal that can be completed" Mulford stressed.

Hillary Clinton finally comes in support of N-deal

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, July 4: Senator Hillary Clinton, Democratic co-chair of the Friends of India Caucus in the US-Senate, has come out in support of the Indo-US nuclear agreement. Ms Clinton, whose silence on the nuclear deal had been deafening and of deep concern to her staunch Indian American supporters and fund-raisers, has said that she intended to vote in support of the legislation when it comes to the Senate.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the deal by overwhelming vote of 18-2 on June 29. The House International Relations Committee had earlier approved the July 18 agreement between President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

In a press statement, Ms Clinton declared that the United States and India are bound together by deep mutual respect and our common efforts to work towards a democratic, free, and secure world. "As co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, I have sought to strengthen the ties that bind our two nations," she said.

She then went on to say that "the legislation that emerged from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was a significant improvement over the implementing legislation put forward by the Administration in March."

Ms Clinton said "the Administration's initial proposal sought to undercut Congressional authority by asking us to effectively approve an agreement before it had even been negotiated with India, and before India had reached its nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency."

She said that over the past few months she had been "carefully following the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's consideration of this agreement," and lauded Senators Richard Lugar, Indiana Republican and chairman of the Committee, and Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat, the ranking minority member, "for the seriousness with which they exercised their jurisdiction over this legislation."

She noted that 'because of the efforts of Chairman Lugar and Ranking Member Biden, the bill that was voted out of the Committee is a far better bill. "The legislation passed by the Foreign Relations Committee not only retains Congressional prerogatives, but it also ensures that Congress will not have to vote to approve a final agreement until every single nation in the Nuclear Suppliers Group -- the global regime given the charge for ensuring the responsible trade of nuclear technology -- has agreed to permit the transfer of peaceful nuclear technology to India."

Ms Clinton said that "by working through the NSG, we will help strengthen both that group, as well as the greater international non-proliferation regime that is centre-stage as we address the threats posed by the nuclear weapons programs of Iran and North Korea."

Ms Clinton said "as India continues to grow stronger and to shoulder more of the responsibilities that come with being a leading nation in the world, we must continue to work towards greater cooperation with our Indian friends to deal with our common challenges in security, energy, economic and health." She said "this agreement is just the first step on that journey that our countries, and our people, will take together."

Earlier, Senator John Cornyn, Texas Republican and the founder and GOP co-chair of the Friends of India Caucus acknowledged that he was embarrassed that Clinton, had neither co-sponsored the nuclear agreement nor spoken out in favor of the deal, and told that he has been "working on her but one ought to ask her why she had not yet come out publicly in support of the deal."

Soon after the Senate and House Committees approved the deal, Dr R Vijayanagar, the chairman of the Indian American Republican Council slammed Clinton for her silence, saying, "She did not support us when we needed it, and she can be assured that the Indian American community will not forget her intransigence."

Obviously, in a partisan attack, Vijayanagar pointed out that her co-chair of the Friends of India Caucus -- John Cornyn -- had not lost a single opportunity to support the deal and argued that he had played a key role in the passage of the legislation by taking to the Senate floor and arguing in support of the deal and also rebutting those who criticized it.

Shuttle Discovery launched

FLORIDA, July 4: After two weather delays and last-minute foam trouble, shuttle Discovery, the second shuttle flight since Columbia, and its crew of seven blasted off on Tuesday for NASA's first shuttle launch in a year.

According to the news agency, the launch was on the NASA's first on Independence Day after Columbia was brought down three-and-a-half years ago by a chunk of insulation foam breaking off the fuel tank.

The foam problem resurfaced during last July's flight of Discovery and again on Monday, keeping the space agency debating safety all the way up to the eve of lift-off. Discovery thundered away from its seaside pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 2:38 pm local time (1838 GMT).

Commander Steven Lindsey, an Air Force fighter pilot, was at the controls and aiming for a link-up in two days with the International Space Station.

Senate Committee approves bill on Indo-US nuke deal

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON, June 29: The Indo-US ties are poised for a new chapter with the crucial Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday passing a draft bill seeking implementation of the landmark nuclear deal between the two countries by an overwhelming vote of 16 to 2.

The draft bill on the civilian nuclear energy cooperation with India had cleared the first hurdle on Tuesday when the 50-member House International Relations Committee (HIRC) approved it by a vote of 37 to 5.

Senators Russell Feingold ( Wisconsin) and Barbara Boxer ( California) were the sole dissenters, as the majority of the committee members almost tripped over one another to co-sponsor the legislation introduced by Senators Richard Lugar and Joe Biden, chair and ranking Democrat respectively on the Foreign Relations Committee.

As with the HIRC vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has now sent the bill for full debate and voting on the Senate floor; the overwhelming vote in favor signalling to the full Senate that the committee is solidly behind the bill and desirous of its passing.

Of the three amendments proposed at the Senate committee, two were approved by voice vote while one was rejected. The Committee rejected, by a convincing margin of 13-5, an amendment by the Democrat Senator Mr Russell Feingold requiring the President, Mr George Bush, to certify that he has assurances from India that all assistance from the US would only be in the realm of civil nuclear cooperation.

The 18-member Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which took up for fine-tuning its own version of a bi-partisan bill on the deal, discussed whether to make exemptions in the 1954 Atomic Energy Act to enable the US to sell nuclear fuel and technology in return for non-proliferation and safeguard commitments from India.

Significantly, the draft of the bill, circulated hours before the Committee's meeting, did not have a reference to Iran as was in the case of House Committee whose draft legislation, in the non-operative section, contained a provision seeking India's 'full and active' participation in American efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The landmark deal was the 'most important strategic initiative' undertaken by the Bush administration, which provides the country 'new diplomatic options' to ensure global stability, said the Senate Committee Chairman Richard Lugar.

In his opening remarks, Lugar said: "By concluding this pact and the far-reaching set of cooperative agreements that accompany it, President Bush has embraced a long-term outlook that seeks to enhance the core strength of the US foreign policy in a way that will give them new diplomatic options and improve global stability."

The Republican Senator also outlined provisions of the bill, which in his view significantly strengthened the proposals that were first advanced by the administration especially as it related to Congressional oversight and procedures.

Noting that the deal allows India to access nuclear fuel, technology and reactors from the US, which were previously denied as New Delhi did not ratify the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Lugar said Washington will ensure that the civilian nuclear agreement would not 'undercut' its responsibilities under the treaty.

"The agreement can be a lasting incentive for India to abstain from further nuclear weapons tests and to cooperate closely with the United States in stopping proliferation," Lugar said.
The Senator said the deal has resulted in the improvement of relations between the two countries and the US was strategically benefited by it.

" India's votes at the International Atomic Energy Agency on the Iran issue last September and this past February demonstrate that New Delhi is able and willing to adjust its traditional foreign policies and play a constructive role on international issues," he said.

Meanwhile, a visiting US foreign policy expert said the overwhelming support to the India-US nuclear agreement is largely thanks to the positive perception of India among the lawmakers.
Speaking to an audience of Indian strategic experts in Chennai, Robert G Sutter of the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington DC, said "this piece of legislation (the bill allowing the India-US nuclear cooperation agreement) is on a fast track. It may be approved even before Congress goes into recess (in August)."

Referring to the earlier decades that saw great swings in the India-US relations, he said: "Those days are over. India is just too important for America." The greater bilateral ties were a "natural development", and " India fits right into the US scheme of things," the expert said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the "moving force" behind enhanced India-US relations and greater cooperation between the two counties, said Sutter, anticipating an added momentum to bilateral relations if she became the next president.

US House panel approves Indo-US nuclear deal bill

WASHINGTON, June 28: The International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill seeking an exemption for India from the discriminatory nuclear regime that exists under the US law.

Of the 45 committee members who debated the bill, 37 voted in its favour, while five opposed it. The remaining three members abstained from voting. The Bush administration and New Delhi, said officials, had always been confident of getting a majority for the bill. What was needed was an overwhelming majority to provide a political momentum for a parallel vote in the Senate on Thursday and, eventually, a vote in the full Congress.

Deal opponents had argued that other countries would also seek similar cooperation. Supporters were of the view that the proposed act strengthened the bilateral relationship and brought India into the nuclear mainstream.

Most congressmen who spoke were full of praise for India. Committee chair Henry Hyde said the bill was "profoundly satisfactory". Ranking Democrat Tom Lantos called it a "defining moment in our relationship with India".

After the debate, a series of amendments designed to wreck the bill - demanding, among other things, that India sign the NPT and cap its fissile-material production - were voted on by the committee. Four were defeated by over 30 votes. Only one cosmetic amendment was accepted.

Officials said the vote indicated that the strategy of incorporating rhetorical demands of various congressmen to broad base support seemed to have worked.

Nuke agreement with India made under special circumstances: US

ISLAMABAD, June 27: US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has said that the nuclear deal with India was made under "special circumstances" and declined to give any commitment on extending the arrangement to Pakistan.

"The deal we made with India is under special circumstances," said Rice after holding talks with President Pervez Musharraf and a separate meeting with Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri.

Asked whether Pakistan has raised the issue of extending the US-India nuclear deal, she said Washington is having very "fruitful" discussions with Islamabad on how to
provide "reliable, safe and clean" energy. Rice comments came barely hours before a US Congressional Committee endorsed a deal for sharing civilian nuclear energy with India.

During her talks with Musharraf, Rice told him that the US expected the military backed government to hold next year's general elections in a free and fair manner. "I have had discussions with the President, with the Foreign Minister, with the Prime Minister about the importance that the world and the international community, friends of Pakistan, attach to a process next year that results in free and fair elections", Rice said.

US Secretary of state further said that the international community would watch all aspects of the poll process, including freedom for candidates to "assemble and campaign," a statement which political parties considered as a reference to the government's reluctance to permit former Premiers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif to return to take part in polls.



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