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Russia, India Deal Criticized

June 23, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department chief spokesman says Russia’s deal with India to build power plants for two nuclear reactors ``sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.″

``It’s too close to business as usual,″ James P. Rubin added Monday.

The deal was signed in New Delhi two weeks after the United States appealed to Russia and other leading countries to refrain from helping India or Pakistan in ways that could advance their nuclear weapons programs.

Joining six other industrialized countries, the United States and Russia agreed at the London meeting to cut off all international bank loans to the two countries except for humanitarian projects.

The two light water nuclear reactors are part of a civil program to overcome a severe power shortage that hampers India’s economic development.

India conducted five nuclear weapons tests last month and Pakistan responded with tests of its own, raising fears of a nuclear arms race or of nuclear conflict in the region.

Russia is India’s principal military supplier and is suspected of helping India build a sea-launched cruise missile that could carry a nuclear warhead and strike deep into Pakistan.

``We urged Russia not to proceed with the reactor sale to India as it is not consistent with Russia’s obligations as a member of the nuclear suppliers group,″ Rubin said.

He said the deal ``undercuts the good work we have done together″ to dissuade India from nuclear testing and urged Russia to reconsider.

Still, he said the U.S. relationship with Russia is good overall.

``We do believe we have built a cooperative relationship, and that we work together on many, many issues,″ he said. ``That is a marked change from the Cold War and from the period immediately thereafter.″

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