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No deal with Pak on F-16 sale: Rice

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: March 16, 2005 13:28 IST
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India on Wednesday conveyed its concern to the United States over its reported move to sell F-16 warplanes to Pakistan.

The issue figured during the wide-ranging talks visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had with External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh in New Delhi on Wednesday morning.

Singh said he conveyed to Dr Rice that any such sale might create 'some complications'.

Addressing a joint press conference, Dr Rice sought to allay New Delhi's apprehensions, saying there has been no such agreement with Islamabad and 'I don't expect any such announcement' during the course of her visit to South Asia, including Pakistan.

Dr Rice said US President George W Bush hoped to visit India later this year.

Maintaining a studied silence on India's claim for a permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council, she, however, said the US was talking to countries around the world on restructuring the world body and other issues related to it.

Dr Rice said restructuring the UN was a complex issue. "We are at the beginning of United Nations reforms," she noted.

The issue of India's claim for a permanent membership did come up during the discussions with Singh and the two agreed to stay in touch, the American Secretary of State said.

Dr Rice expressed her government's concern on the India-Iran gas pipeline. She said US Ambassador to India David Mulford had already conveyed US reservations to the Indian government.

Singh said India would continue to have cordial relations with Iran despite American reservations. The petroleum ministry was in touch with Iranian officials and holding talks with them on the pipeline, he added.

Both Dr Rice and Singh said there was a greater need to find new resources of energy and also for a close cooperation in defence and other areas.

Dr Rice paid rich tributes to the rise of India as a major economic power. She recalled how in December last year Indian ships helped tsunami victims not only in the country but in other nations as well.

The two leaders are likely to continue discussions during lunch.

Earlier, the US secretary of state called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi. The two discussed 'various important issues' during the half-an-hour meeting, Dr Rice said.

Additional reportage: PTI

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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