Sarkozy to have dinner with PM Sunday

Sunday, December 5, 2010

NEW DELHI - As negotiations for a framework civil nuclear pact go down to the wire, French President Nicolas Sarkozy meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over dinner Sunday night in a bid to iron out differences relating to France’s concerns over India’s civil nuclear liability law.

Sarkozy flies in here Sunday evening after an overnight stay at Agra and a four-hour stop in Bangalore Saturday.

Manmohan Singh will host a private dinner for Sarkozy, his spouse Carla Bruni and senior French ministers at his 7, Race Course Road residence.

The two leaders are expected to spend some time on a one-on-one before the dinner during which they are likely to touch on some key issues like civil nuclear cooperation that will be discussed in detail at the delegation-level talks Monday.

Manmohan Singh and Sarkozy, who have met several times in the last three years and enjoy a good rapport, are expected to share views over a host of global issues like reform of the international financial institutions, the G20 forum of major and emerging economies, climate change and non-proliferation.

Sarkozy is expected to voice concerns over India’s civil nuclear liability bill which is seen by foreign suppliers as onerous and press the prime minister to bring India’s rules and procedures in consonance with international practice, as enshrined in the Vienna Convention, diplomatic sources said.

The meeting may resolve issues that are coming in the way of the two sides signing a framework agreement between French nuclear giant Areva and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) for building two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR).

The framework accord is expected to lay down broad rules for Areva that is building two nuclear reactors initially, which will eventually increase to six. Areva plans to set up two atomic power plants of 1,650 MW capacity each at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

Areva has made it clear that it is awaiting notification of implementing rules of the nuclear liability law to know the extent of the compensation they will have to pay in case of an atomic accident in facilities set up by it.

Sarkozy began his second visit to India from IT hub Bangalore where he reiterated France’s support for India’s candidacy for an expanded UN Security Council and New Delhi’s bid to join top nuclear clubs, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), that govern global trade in dual-use technologies.

The two sides are likely to sign some agreements related to space, technology, nuclear cooperation and culture.

France became the first country to sign a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation pact with India Sep 30, 2008 after the NSG granted New Delhi a one-time exemption from the existing rules of nuclear commerce.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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