OTTAWA Canada is close to signing a deal with India to sell nuclear technology and materials, Trade Minister Stockwell Day said on Friday, adding he was confident that remaining security concerns would be resolved.
Day made similar comments in May, saying at that time that a deal was imminent.
He told reporters on a conference call that he was now ironing out a few final stumbling blocks.
"I had a telephone meeting just last week with India's national security adviser. We are down to four fine points ... He and I both agree that final agreement is possible within days, if not just a matter of a few weeks," Day told reporters on a conference call from India.
Day said he did not foresee any threat of Canadian materials being diverted to military uses elsewhere in the region because of India's commitment to allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as tough transparency and reporting requirements.
"These are very strong provisions," he said.
Canada halted nuclear co-operation with India after the country diverted material from Canadian-designed reactors to make a nuclear bomb in 1974. The conflict between India and Pakistan at the time led to widespread international concerns about India's nuclear intentions.
Canada and other countries lifted their moratorium on nuclear trade with India last year.
Day said one of the four items to be resolved before signing a deal was the "question of reprocessing", without providing details.
"I'll let our negotiators make progress on those and the others without unduly trying to raise pressure points publicly on them," he said.
The deal means Canadian uranium producers will be able to sell to an Indian market that is seen, along with China's, as one of the top areas of growing demand for nuclear fuel.
Cameco, a top uranium miner, recently said it plans to open a marketing office in India.
"Certainly we're looking forward to having the opportunity to do business in India. It's a large market opportunity for any uranium fuel supplier," said Cameco spokesman Lyle Krahn.
The company plans to open the office next month.
"Once we have the agreement in place, we'll certainly be moving forward," Krahn said.
On Wednesday, the Canadian government announced a similar nuclear deal with Kazakhstan, where Cameco already has operations. (Reporting by Louise Egan, additional reporting by Cameron French in Toronto)