123 in Congress soon, lame duck session possible: Mulford

September 9th, 2008 - 3:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 9 (IANS) The US Tuesday said it was hopeful of presenting the 123 pact for Congressional approval “in a few days” but did not rule out a “lame duck session” to approve the deal if it was not passed in the current session ending Sep 26. “We hope to get legislation before the US Congress in a few days (which will lead to the approval of the 123 pact),” US Ambassador to India David C. Mulford told reporters here.

Stating that he was hopeful that the Congress would waive the mandatory 30-day period required for presenting an international pact, the envoy underlined that the Congress was “a sovereign body”. He said it would ultimately be up to the Congress to decide whether to take up the 123 pact in the current Sep 8-26 session, the last one before the Congress adjourns before the Nov 4 presidential elections.

Spelling out the precise sequence of steps required for the Congressional approval, the envoy said the presidential determination would be made in “a couple of days” after getting documents of India’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the text of the waiver granted to India by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG).

After the presidential determination, the administration would press for an amendment to existing rules to get around the 30-day period. This would be followed by an up-and-down vote in both Senate and House of Representatives, which would set the stage for formal signing of the pact between the two countries.

But if the Congress fails to approve the 123 pact in the current session, there is a possibility of a lame duck session which may be called to approve the pact to enable full civilian nuclear cooepration between India and the US.

“Lame duck sessions are strictly within the control of the Congressional leadership. Rumours say there won’t be one. But there is a possibility,” Mulford said. “In the past, lame duck sessions have been called for specific legislation.”

The US envoy also assured that if the bilateral pact was not approved during the tenure of the George Bush administration, the prospects of the deal going through would be “greatly enhanced” under the new dispensation, specially after the NSG waiver which he insisted was a “clean” one.

Underlining that the nuclear deal would enable India to become “an increasingly important power in the world”, Mulford said India-US relations were poised for a major expansion in the days to come.

Mulford described the NSG waiver as “a major, major accomplishment” for both India and the US and called it “the biggest diplomatic exercise” he has seen in nearly three decades that involved 45 nations agreeing to resume global nuclear trade with India.

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