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Senator Frist, others lend support to Indo-US nuclear initiative

By Staff
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Washington, May 5 (UNI) Some of the most powerful US Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, have lent their support to the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation deal, now pending before Congress for approval.

Supporting the deal, Mr Frist said, ''I am encouraged by the fact that this agreement will, for the first time, require a majority of India's nuclear reactors to be placed under international safeguards. This agreement will help bring India into the non-proliferation mainstream, improve nuclear safety, and strengthen their export controls.'' Mr Frist was speaking at an event sponsored by the ndian-Americans at the Capitol Hill to lobby for the deal yesterday.

It was organised by a broad spectrum of Indian-American organisations, inlcuding the US-India Political Action Committee.

The Republican senator's support is being considered a major boost to the agreement since as a majority leader he will decide when the Senate will vote on the agreement.

The Bush administration and Congress are currently debating the timeline for a vote on approving the deal. The Indian-Americans, who support the Bush Administration's timeline, urged the US Congress to hold all votes as soon as possible.

Besides Mr Frist, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran also lent their support for the deal, which was announced by President George W Bush during his visit to India in early March this year.

Several other members of the House of Representatives also announced their support including Congressmen Mike Bilirakis, Gregory Meeks, Joe Knollenburg, Kay Granger, Lynn Westmoreland and Adam Smith.

Representatives Mike Bilirakis and Lynn Westmoreland are both viewed as experts on energy issues and hence their views enjoy considered valuable in getting the deal approved by the US Congress.

Mr Bilirakis is the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Westmoreland is the Vice Chairman of the Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy and Resources.

Dr. Rao Emandi of Florida, an Indian-American community leader said, ''I met with several members of Congress about this agreement including Representative Bilirakis and Senator Mel Martinez. They are supportive of the agreement, although Senator Martinez is still waiting to learn more details about the agreement.'' The Indo-US nuclear cooperation deal would allow India to get civilian nuclear technology for its energy needs, while in return, bring its civilian nuclear reactors, for the first time under international safeguards. The agreement has to be endorsed by the US Congress before it can become effective.

Several hearings have been held on the deal by the Senate and the House to elicit further views of experts and administration officials to allow the lawmakers to come to the ''right'' conclusion.

The next hearing on the agreement is likely be held on May 11 in the House International Relations Committee. The Bush administration would brief the Senate and Congressional staff next week on the intricacies of the deal.

UNI XC PM RS2209

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