US House may pass nuclear deal later today

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Washington, Sep 27 (UNI) Legislation to implement the historic US-India agreement for Cooperation on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, which was debated in the House of Representatives yesterday, is expected to be passed later today.

Republican Congressman Ed Royce, who gave this information, said once signed into law, the US and India would have completed a process begun in July 2005.

If approved as expected, it would go to the US Senate, where supporters expect it to win bipartisan approval. The legislation must still pass the Senate before being signed into law.

The delay is caused by an anonymous member in the Senate, who put on 'hold' consideration of the measure, blocking its progress.

He is stated to be against its passage without debate and voting.

Meanwhile, the measure appears to be making progress in the House of Representatives. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, a known opponent of the accord, moved a bill to endorse the agreement as passed by a Senate panel.

He agreed to do so following a phone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, dropping his own competing version and eliminating any need to reconcile the two.

Mr Berman said he supported the bill after the administration has assured him that it would push for an NSG decision prohibiting the export of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies to states that are not signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In yesterday's debate in the House, Mr Royce said, ''This has been a long road. But today, we have taken a huge step forward.

Failure by this Congress to push this agreement across the finish line, by sending this bill to the President, would be foreign policy malpractice. The time for Senate action is now.'' ''Either we continue to try to box in India, and hope for the best, or we act to make India a true partner. This agreement works through a difficult non-proliferation situation to strengthen an important relationship. India will be a major 21st century power,'' Mr Royce said.

Earlier, State Department's Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said, ''We're pushing again, very hard -- to get this agreement done through the Congress. We were very happy that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved it. And it now goes on to the full Senate and the House. We also hope that this agreement will be approved so that we can go forward and implement it. It's a good thing for the United States and India, and we do want to see it happen,'' he added.

Under the Agreement, India separates its civil and military nuclear facilities, gives the IAEA increased access to its nuclear facilities, and continues its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing.

In addition, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, an organisation of 45 countries that seeks to control the spread of nuclear technology, has given the agreement its approval.

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