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NEW DELHI, Jan 9: The United States may be cozying up to its Cold War allergen, India, and President Pervez Musharraf may be heading for a rare visit to Moscow next month, but this has not deterred the CIA from saying it as it is —- Russia has helped India with key elements of New Delhi’s nuclear programme, a news agency said on Thursday.

The Press Trust of India quoted the CIA as saying in a new report that “Russia has significantly supported in developing India’s nuclear programmes with technology and equipment, and become a main source of arms for the country”.

Significantly, the CIA report surfaced a day after New Delhi announced that US and Indian officials would meet next month in Washington to discuss further easing of restrictions on nuclear technology and space cooperation.

Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and senior US envoy Richard Haass talked over “cooperation in civilian space and nuclear areas and the facilitation of dual purpose high-tech trade”, the government said.

“The two countries have set up a high-level technology group which will meet in US in February and further discuss these issues.”

The easing of US policy - which once imposed an outright ban on selling of any technology to India that could be used in nuclear weapons - was first mentioned in November, when US Undersecretary of Commerce Kenneth I. Juster visited.

The ban had been imposed after India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

The CIA report alleges Russia has also been helping China and Iran, among others, with infrastructure for nuclear projects, ballistic missile-related goods, training on biological and chemical weapons and defence-related exports.

“Russia’s cash-strapped defence, biotechnology, chemical, aerospace and nuclear industries, are eager to raise funds via exports and transfers,” PTI quoted the CIA as saying in its mid-term report.

According to the CIA report, after Russian President Vladimir Putin in May 2000 amended the presidential decree on nuclear exports to allow Russia to export nuclear materials, technology and equipment to countries that do not have full-scope IAEA safeguards continued.

Russia also continues to be the main supplier of technology and equipment to India’s and China’s naval nuclear propulsion programmes and has played a key role in supporting civilian nuclear programmes in Iran, primarily the Bushehr nuclear power plant project, it says.

The CIA says monitoring of the activities of specific entities as well as the overall effectiveness of the Russian government’s non-proliferation regime remains a high priority.