India says US assures access to American linked to Mumbai attacks

WASHINGTON (AP) — India said Friday that the United States will allow its investigators to interview an American citizen linked to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

But Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and other Indian officials couldn't say when that crucial access might come or how many visits Indians would be given with David Coleman Headley, who has pleaded guilty to scouting Mumbai before the attacks that left 166 people dead and which India blames on Pakistani extremists.

The comments came as U.S. and Indian officials wrapped up strategic high-level talks meant to ease Indians' fears that their country is slipping behind rivals China and Pakistan in U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Headley has proven a sticking point in ties, and Krishna sounded a rare note of discord in this week's talks when he directly requested on Thursday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allow access. Clinton and the State Department haven't publicly responded, and the Justice Department also declined to comment Friday on Krishna's remarks.

Indian officials said Friday that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has assured them of access.

"How that is going to be accommodated, how it's going to be arranged within the legal framework of the United States is something which is being worked out," Krishna told reporters during a news conference at a Washington hotel.

U.S. officials understand how much India wants to talk with Headley, Krishna said, but India must respect the U.S. judicial system as it waits for interviews.

The Obama administration tried to use this week's meetings to reassure India that it's an important player in many of the global issues the United States wants solved. India is seen as crucial to the U.S.-led fight against extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as a counterweight to powerful China and as a big part of settling world trade and climate change deals.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama told U.S. and Indian officials gathered at a State Department reception that he'll visit the rising Asian power in early November.

The United States, Obama said, values India not merely for its important geographic position in South Asia but because of the deep social, political and strategic values the countries share. "India is indispensable to the future that we seek," Obama said.

U.S.-India ties were transformed after decades of mistrust when the administration of Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, pushed through a landmark 2008 accord to establish civilian nuclear trade with formerly shunned India. Since then, however, India has watched with wariness as Washington has forged deepening bonds with Indian neighbors China and Pakistan.