US Senate committee clears Indo-US Nuclear deal

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Washington, Sep 24: Just hours after Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India reached US on Tuesday, Sep 23, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the deal for vote, paving way for its entry into the full Senate. The development brought cheers to the Indian American supporters in Washington even though there are two more steps to be cleared before US President George W Bush sign the deal.

The lawmakers in the crucial Senate panel adopted the agreement by a vote of 19-2. Two Senators Russell Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat and Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, voted against the deal. As expected, the bill received an overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill now goes to the floor of the Senate for the final ratification.

Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential nominee and the Vice Presidental candidate Senator Joseph Biden, currently the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, voted byproxies to move the agreement to the Senate floor.

The amendment sought by Senator Feingold asking the Bush administration to enter into agreement with the Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) that there will ne no transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology to any nation that is not part of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was rejected by the Senate panel by a 15-4 vote.

"The President may not exchange diplomatic notes pursuant to Article 16(1) of the 5 Agreement unless the President certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the NSG has amended its guidelines to prohibit the transfer of technology related to the enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to any state that is not a party to the NPT," the amendment by Feingold said.

The US-India agreement was mentioned as the ninth item on the legislative agenda for the panel. Next step in the process is the approval of the House of Representatives be for the agreement is signed. There is still no formal word from the House Foreign Affairs Committee chaired by California Democrat Howard Berman, a known scpetic of the deal, on how the agreement is going to move there.

Top Congressional aides in the House have long maintained that the legislation to waive the 30-day rule would have to be addressed. Manmohan Singh who is in New York said earlier that there is still uncertainty over the deal being approved by US Congress before his meeting with US President George W Bush on Thursday, Sep 25. Everything depends on US Congress to give quick approval to the deal, Singh said adding, he is hopeful of it.

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