India foreign minister won't predict timeframe for nuclear deal
( dpa ) - Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee refused to set a timeframe for breaking the deadlock in the country's governing coalition over the nuclear deal with the United States.
Some members of the US Congress have warned that the deal to supply India with nuclear fuel and technology will collapse if an agreement has not been worked out by this summer.
But Mukherjee said "we have some problems" because of opposition by communists allies in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ruling coalition.
"I am aware of the timeframe, but as I mentioned ... there are certain issues which are yet to be resolved," Mukherjee said. "Unless those issues are resolved it will be difficult for us to pick any particular timeframe."
"I cannot say whether it is in the month of June or the month of August, so let us see how things move," he told reporters in Washington one day after meeting with President George W Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Bush and Singh signed the agreement in 2006 that allows the United States to sell nuclear technology and material to India for nuclear energy, and the two sides have since worked through complex negotiations to implement the deal.
The United States required India as part of the deal to separate its military and civilian nuclear programme and allow inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the civilian sites.
Mukherjee said negotiations have wrapped up with the Vienna-based IAEA but an agreement was pending approval of the agency's governing board.
But the agreement has faced stiff resistance from the communist party in Singh's coalition. The communists believe the deal compromises Indian sovereignty.
The United States and India must also complete a waiver with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group to allow the selling of technology to a country which has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday there was still time to finalize the agreement ahead of November 4 presidential and congressional elections.
"We have a little bit of time before we have to say now or never," she said. "We have several months to continue to work with them."