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Manmohan may meet Bush, Blair

By Amit Baruah

NEW DELHI, AUG. 25. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is likely to meet the United States President, George W. Bush, on September 21 in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session. Dr. Singh, who will stop for half a day in London en route to Washington, is scheduled to meet the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, too.

Dr. Singh is expected to raise the issue of India's bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council during his meeting with Mr. Bush. South Block sources told this correspondent that Dr. Singh would like to ascertain Washington's position on India's desire.

Russia, France and Britain, three of the permanent five (P-5) members on the Council, have publicly endorsed India's candidature. So far, the U.S. has not taken any position on India's bid to join the Council.

China's stand

China has said in general terms that it wants India to play a larger role in the U.N. and on the world stage. However, it has not supported any country's efforts so far to enter the Council.

The U.S. position is important as India believes that Security Council expansion will come about as a result of an agreement among the P-5 which will, of course, have to be endorsed by the General Assembly.

India has entered into bilateral agreements with Brazil, Germany and Japan to offer reciprocal support to each other for entry into the Council. Hence, the position the U.S. will take becomes even more important.

Bilateral issues

The first meeting between Dr. Singh and Mr. Bush will also deal with a range of bilateral issues — from the "strategic dialogue" to high technology commerce.

A diplomatic source said the situation in South Asia, the relationship between India and Pakistan, and international issues such as Iraq were also likely to be on the talks agenda.

While it will be the first meeting between Dr. Singh and Mr. Bush, it will also be a first meeting for the Prime Minister and Mr. Blair.

Dr. Singh, will of course, have a meeting with the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting.

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