US Senate panel approves nuclear deal with overwhelming majority

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Washington, Sep 24 (UNI) A Senate penal endorsed the US-India nuclear cooperation agreement by 19-2 votes on Tuesday, the day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh landed in New York, raising hopes of the controversial measure's approval by the full Congress.

The Senate Foreign Relations committee passed a bill that would allow its ratification, lifting more than three-decade-old global ban on the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to India. The ban came into effect when India exploded its first nuclear device in the 1970s.

Prime Minister Singh who is in New York to attend the UN General Assembly session would come here tomorrow for a meeting with President Bush at the White House.

According to experts, the deal has a fair chance of seeing through the Congress as indicated by the overwhelming support it received in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last night.

Moreover, both the Republican and the Democratic presidential candidates have publicly backed the agreement.

Democratic candidate for vice president Sen Joe Biden who is also chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, hailed the committee's vote. He lobbies in favour of the agreement.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in New York yesterday that the Bush Administration continued to work very hard with the Congress in getting this through the Senate and the House.

''We are doing everything we can to get this passed in this session of Congress,'' Mr McCormack said.

The Bush administration sent the agreement to Congress on September 10 urging its passage in its current session.

The agreement has already been approved by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) which controls the nuclear trade.

The administration has warned that a failure to ratify the deal would keep US firms from doing business in India's multi-billion dollar nuclear energy sector.

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