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India, France Sign Civilian Nuclear Deal

  • VOA News

Indian and French leaders have signed a landmark agreement that allows French companies to sell civilian nuclear technology to India.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the agreement on Tuesday, saying the deal will form the basis of wide ranging bilateral cooperation in the fields of energy and research.

The deal was signed after talks in Paris between Mr. Sarkozy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

French company Areva has said it hopes to negotiate the delivery of two nuclear reactors to India.

The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which governs legal trade of nuclear materials around the world, ended a 34-year embargo on India earlier this month.

India is also near agreement on a separate civilian nuclear deal with the United States, which is awaiting approval in the U.S. Senate.

Today, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is confident senators could vote on the deal as early as Wednesday.

White House Spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters that the deal is a high priority for President Bush. He said White House staff members have been in contact with Senator Reid's office.

The U.S. House of Representatives has already approved the deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters today she hoped the nuclear pact can get done as it would solidify deepening relations between two of the world's largest democracies.

International critics say the agreement undermines efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons by allowing sales of such technology to those who have not agreed to full safeguards.

India has refused to sign non-proliferation agreements and has been under a nuclear trade ban since 1974.

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