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Bush Signs India Nuclear Trade Bill

President Bush has signed legislation that paves the way for civilian nuclear trade between the United States and India. From the White House, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

The legislation ends a 34-year ban on nuclear trade between the two countries. It allows the United States to share civilian nuclear technology and materials with India. For its part, New Delhi is promising to open some of its nuclear facilities to U.N. inspection.

President Bush signed the measure in the White House East Room, Wednesday.

"This legislation will enhance our cooperation in using nuclear energy to power our economies, will help us to work together more closely to reduce the danger of nuclear proliferation across the world," President Bush said.

The agreement itself is to be signed Friday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee.

President Bush noted that relations between Washington and New Delhi have, at times, been cool.

"In recent years we have worked to transform our relationship into a strong strategic partnership," said Mr. Bush. "One area where we saw tremendous potential for cooperation is energy. As our economies have grown, our demands for energy have grown, as well. It has become increasingly clear that we need to generate in ways that are safe and clean and secure. One energy source that can generate large amounts of electricity with zero emissions of air pollution or greenhouse gases is nuclear power."

In 1998, India made headlines with a series of nuclear weapons tests. New Delhi has signed neither the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty nor the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Some U.S. legislators who oppose the new pact say there are insufficient safeguards to prevent India from diverting nuclear fuel from its intended civilian use to its weapons program.

Indian officials have said they are committed to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.