US gets ready to seek Congressional approval for nuke deal

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Washington, Sep 9 (UNI) The Bush Administration has set in motion the process of securing Congressional approval for the Indo-US nuclear agreement as envisaged in the controversial Hyde amendment package.

''The US government is preparing to submit it [the document] to the Congress. Admittedly, the time here is short and there's a brief window before the Congress goes out of session,'' US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday.

The agreement, signed by US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2005, won approval on Saturday of the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which controls the export and sale of nuclear technology.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, in a separate briefing, said the administration had urged the Congress ''to act soon on this important measure.'' US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her team would be working very closely with Congress members over the next several weeks ''to see if we can get this done in a timely fashion,'' Ms Perino said.

She said signs for its passage were good, given the bipartisan support it enjoyed in the past. ''I don't think that anything has changed in that regard. So if they are able to get anything done, this could be one of them,'' she said.

When asked whether there is an explicit or even implicit understanding between the US and India that a nuclear test by India would void the agreement, put it on hold, or in any way affect it, Ms Perino said, ''I'll just have to get back to you on that one.'' Earlier Mr McCormack said Ms Rice, the White House and the administration were committed to trying to move that agreement forward.

Asked whether China's opposition to the NSG waiver for India came as a surprise to the US, Mr McCormack said, ''I'll let the Chinese government speak their views about the diplomatic process in Vienna.'' He, however, said, ''The NSG operates by consensus, and since everybody agreed to allow this move forward, one can deduce that the Chinese at least didn't stand in the way of it moving forward.'' Mr McCormack said Ms Rice spoke to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang over the phone on the morning of the agreement. It was announced in the afternoon that they had a very good discussion. ''But again, I'll let the Chinese speak for themselves as to their views of the diplomatic process,'' the spokesman said.

About the concern among US businesses, such as GE, about other countries being able to trade with India while the Congress deliberates, Mr McCormack said, ''Fundamentally, we want a level playing field for American business. We believe that American business, if allowed to compete on a level playing field, is more than capable of winning its share of business around the world.'' UNI XC SKB HS1032

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