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Monday, September 29, 2008

US House backs India nuclear deal

The US House of Representatives has voted in favour of a landmark nuclear deal between India and the US.

The agreement now goes to the Senate for final approval, before President George W Bush signs it into law.

India PM Manmohan Singh, who was in New York for the UN General Assembly, has said India is close to securing a "new status" in the world nuclear order.

India says the agreement is vital for it to meet its energy demands. Critics say it creates a dangerous precedent.

They say the deal allows India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other nations must.

Under its terms, India would get access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel.

In return, Delhi would open its civilian nuclear facilities to inspection - but its nuclear weapons sites would remain off-limits.

Race against time

The House passed by the agreement 298-117 votes. Reports say it is likely to go for a final approval to the Senate this week.

"I am happy that one hurdle has been crossed, but it is not the end of the Congressional process and we need to wait for the final outcome," Manmohan Singh told reporters.

US President George W Bush urged the Senate to "quickly" vote on the deal before it adjourns before October.

"Signing this bipartisan bill will help strengthen our partnership with India," he said in a statement.

The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

"India will be liberated from the constraints of technology denial of 34 years," Mr Singh was quoted as saying in a statement issued by his office.

"The civilian nuclear cooperation is in the interest of India, in the interest of the US and in the interest of the world at large," he said.

Correspondents say it will be a race against time if the two sides sign the deal - first agreed three years ago - and regarded as a key foreign policy priority for both the Indian and US governments.

Earlier this month, the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted a ban that had stopped India from getting access to the global nuclear market.

(Source: BBC)

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