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Bush Administration Promises Full Effort on India Nuclear Deal


The Bush administration says it will do all it can to try to remove remaining obstacles to the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation accord now that India's government has survived a parliamentary confidence vote on the issue. But officials admit time for action in the U.S. Congress is running short. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Administration officials are relieved that the stalemate over the nuclear deal in the Indian parliament is over, but they say there are no guarantees the package can still be approved this year in the U.S. Congress, which is pushing toward an early election-year adjournment.

The nuclear deal, reached by the two governments in 2005, has been a second-term foreign policy priority for President Bush.

It would give India access to U.S. nuclear technology and fuel, even though that country is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. India would open its non-military nuclear sites to international inspections.

Tuesday's confidence vote won by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ended an impasse with leftist parties in the Indian parliament that had put implementation of the complex accord months behind schedule.

Before the U.S. Congress can approve enabling legislation, the agreement must be cleared by both the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, the NSG, which governs trade in reactors and uranium fuel.

At a news briefing, Acting State Department Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the Bush administration will work to move the agreement forward but said it remains to be seen if there is enough time, especially in the U.S. Congress which aims to finish its session by September 26.

"We're going to be communicating to the Hill how important we believe this measure is for the United States, how important we believe this strategic partnership will be for India, for us, and for others concerned with security around the world. We understand that the calendar is tight. We have the situation that we have. But we do look forward to moving forward with this and will do so as quickly as we can," he said.

Legislative rules require that the India deal must sit before Congress for 30 days of continuous sessions before a vote, and the 30-day clock can only begin after approval by both the IAEA and NSG.

A key Congressional Democrat, Ed Markey, who chairs the House Bipartisan Task Force on Non-Proliferation, said earlier this month there is simply not enough time left and that administration hopes for action are just fiction.

The India deal has broad support but some members from both parties, including Markey, contend that it undermines the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Democratic leaders have said they oppose re-convening Congress for a so-called "lame duck" session after the November election, partly because they anticipate election gains for Democrats and do not want the current Congress to be prolonged.


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