'US, Russia to pursue civilian nuclear pact'
Washington, July 8: President George W Bush will allow extensive US civilian nuclear cooperation with Russia for the first time, a decision that reverses decades of bipartisan policy, The Washington Post reported today.
The Post said the move could be worth billions of dollars to Russia but possibly stir an uproar in the US Congress.
Such an agreement would clear the way for Russia to import and store thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel from US-supplied reactors around the world.
The newspaper, quoting administration officials, said the decision would be announced at Bush's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next Saturday before the annual summit of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations.
According to the Post, the statement to be released by Bush and Putin would agree to start negotiations for the formal agreement required under US law before Washington can engage in civilian nuclear cooperation.
Bush has resisted such a move for years, insisting Russia first stop building a nuclear power station for Iran, the Post reported.
But US officials have changed their view of Russia's collaboration with Iran and have concluded Putin has become a more constructive partner in trying to pressure Iran to give up any move for nuclear weapons, the paper reported.
The Post added the deal could be used as an incentive to gain more Russian cooperation on Iran.
It quoted analysts as saying the deal could draw wide opposition. Critics concerned by Putin's authoritarian course could view the deal as rewarding Russia although it refuses to support sanctions against Iran, while others see it as dangerous to the environment.
The Post said that since Russia was already a nuclear state, such an agreement would presumably conform to the Atomic Energy Act and not require congressional approval. Congress could reject it only by majority votes in the House of Representatives and Senate within 90 legislative days.
The United States has civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with the European atomic energy agency, along with China, Japan and about other 20 other countries. The Bush administration is seeking congressional approval for a controversial civilian nuclear cooperation deal with India.