US Congress clears Indo-US nuclear deal

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Washington, Oct 2 (UNI) With the United States Senate's overwhelming approval last night, the Congress passed the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal, removing the last hurdle in lifting the 34-year-old global ban on the sale of nuclear fuel and technology to India.

The Senate voted 86 to 13 the measure signed by US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005.

The agreement secured the approval of the House of Representatives by a 298-117 vote last Saturday.

India attracted economic and military sanctions for testing its first nuclear device in 1974 and for not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Senate adopted the measure after rejecting by a voice vote Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan's amendment seeking to terminate the US nuclear cooperation with India in the event of New Delhi testing a nuclear weapon.

Sen Christopher Dodd (Democrat), who called for division on the Bill, containing the nuclear accord, said it was a strong signal of US support for a new relationship between the countries after years of cool ties.

Sen Richard Lugar (Republican), the co-author of the legislation, said the accord would protect US national security and non-proliferation efforts while building "a strategic partnership with a nation that shares our democratic values and will exert increasing influence on the world stage".

Earlier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a communication to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat), said that a nuclear test by India would result in "most serious consequences", including automatic cut-off of the US cooperation as well as a number of other sanctions.

''We believe the Indian government intends to uphold the continuation of the nuclear testing moratorium it affirmed to the United States in 2005 and reiterated to the broader international community as recently as September 5, 2008," Ms Rice said.

She urged Senator Reid that the Administration would prefer a ''clean legislation'' meaning thereby that the Senate should pass it as approved by the House of Representatives.

Senator Dorgan, the author of the rejected amendment, said, ''The agreement will almost certainly expand the production of nuclear weapons by India and help dismantle the architecture of NPT, the global agreement that provides civilian nuclear trade in exchange for a pledge from nations not to pursue nuclear weapons.'' State Department Spokesperson Sean McCormack, however, said, ''We think it's an important legislation that's good for the United States. It's good for the global non-proliferation regime, and it's good for the US-India relationship.'' Under the agreement, India, in return for the import of nuclear technology, would accept international inspection of its civilian but not military nuclear installations.

UNI XC AM ATI VP0800

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