Nuclear trade waiver for India expected for Saturday

After 16 hours of talks among nuclear-exporting countries about nuclear exports to India, diplomats said early Saturday in Vienna that they expected to approve a trade exemption for New Delhi later Saturday morning.

The 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) who set nuclear export control rules are working to find consensus on a United States' proposal to give India's growing atomic energy sector access to global suppliers.

Finding agreement among the NSG hinged on Austria, Ireland and New Zealand, who insisted that the trade exemption should take the possibility of an Indian nuclear weapons test into consideration.

The Indian foreign minister's declaration on Friday about his country's commitments to nuclear non-proliferation was key to making a decision on Saturday possible, diplomats said.

"We remain committed to a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing," Pranab Mukerjee said.

The draft trade exemption now includes a direct reference to the Indian statement, a source close to the NSG said.

The trade waiver is an essential part of Washington's 2005 nuclear deal with India. The window is narrowing for the Congress in Washington to approve the bilateral agreement before the presidential elections in November.

"I remain optimistic that we can achieve our objective of achieving consensus here," US Undersecretary of State John Rood told reporters who had been waiting outside the meeting venue.

India cannot currently access global markets for its growing nuclear power sectors, as it has not signed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed in reaction to India's first atomic weapons test in 1974, which it conducted using foreign nuclear technology, dpa reported.

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