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US Official Hopeful Indian Nuclear Deal Will Pass

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns has expressed hopes that a civilian nuclear-cooperation deal with India will be passed soon by the U.S. Congress. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, where Mr. Burns has met senior Indian officials in connection with the landmark deal.

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns says he has not seen a final version of the civilian nuclear bill that is expected to be voted on by both houses of Congress soon, but is confident of a positive outcome.

The House and the Senate have passed different versions of the legislation and are expected to reconcile their differences to give final approval to the bill by the end of the week.

The agreement, if passed, would end a three-decade ban on nuclear-technology exchanges and allow India to buy U.S. nuclear fuel and reactors.

Burns told reporters in New Delhi, he is confident the final version of the legislation will be acceptable to India.

"We anticipate a very supportive bill," he said. "The United States intends to meet all the commitments that we made to the Indian government on July 18, 2005 and March 2, 2006, and that includes the commitments we made on fuel assurances. We believe this bill will be within the parameters as I said of the two agreements, and therefore we will welcome the bill I am sure."

Burns came to India in an effort to calm concerns in New Delhi that some of the language in the legislation would run counter to agreements reached by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India has opposed provisions meant to ensure the deal does not advance its weapons program.

New Delhi has also opposed any suggestion that the deal should be subject to annual presidential certification or be explicitly linked to its cooperation in international efforts to prevent Iran developing a nuclear-weapons program.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said New Delhi would wait to see the final version of the bill before commenting on whether it conforms to the agreement between the leaders of the two countries.