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US lifts some curbs on India nuclear cooperation

WASHINGTON, Wednesday (Reuters) The United States on Tuesday moved to further nuclear cooperation with India by allowing six Indian entities involved in civil nuclear and satellite work to purchase less sensitive U.S.-made items without special licenses.

The new rule, published in the Federal Register, removes some restrictions imposed after New Delhi sparked international condemnation when it conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998. Since then, U.S. President George W. Bush has accelerated a diplomatic embrace of the world's largest democracy.

U.S. officials said the Commerce Department rule change does not clear the way for the transfer of the kind of advanced nuclear power reactors and other technology that New Delhi is keen to obtain to meet its civilian energy needs. An agreement announced in July after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Bush at the White House promised such broad nuclear cooperation in the future.

But that agreement, upending decades-old nonproliferation andards, would require changes in U.S. law and international policy that the administration has yet to propose.

The new rule, however, does constitute a modest advance in a deepening nuclear cooperation between the two major democracies. It is built on a series of reciprocal steps agreed by India and the United States in January 2004.

U.S. officials told Reuters that Tuesday's rule change responded to India's recent enactment of tighter export controls and its formal commitment that U.S. items sold to Indian government facilities would not be used for weapons purposes.

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