Rice persuades US Cong on Indo-US N-deal

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Washington, Sep 10: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday, Sep 10 visited the Capitol Hill and made a full-court press to persuade Congressmen to approve the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement before President George W Bush leaves office on January 20.

''We think that there is a possibility of getting this passed this year and we are going to do everything we possibly can. Whether it does or not, it's not going to be for lack of effort,'' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told newsmen. He said Ms Rice hoped the State Department can send the paperwork to Congress within the next 24 to 48 hours. For it to do so, India must also take a number of steps to satisfy US legal requirements.

The administration has to certify that India has formally adhered to the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which aims to limit the spread of ballistic missile technology.

Ms Rice spoke to the Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress as well as to key lawmakers on the House and Senate foreign affairs committees, particularly those opposed to the deal signed in 2005 which lifts 30-year-old global ban on the sale of nuclear technology and fuel to India.

The Secretary held discussions with House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (Democrat) and Senator Joe Biden, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is now a running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Currently, Democrats are in control of both houses of Congress.

In reply to a question, McCormack said Secretary Rice is busy talking to the leadership. We are reaching out to everybody, supporters as well as those who may be on the fence, those who oppose,'' the Spokesman said.

He said, ''clearly, the timelines are tight, to say the least.

But we are committed to doing everything we can with the Indians, and we know they are committed as well. They are working as hard as they can. And we are committed to working with the Hill to get this done.''

UNI

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