Biden to work hard for N-deal in race against clock

July 2nd, 2008 - 11:09 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 2 (IANS) A key American lawmaker says he is committed to work hard to get the US Congressional approval for the stalled India-US nuclear deal, but cautioned that the time was running out “very quickly” to complete the process. Every passing day without an agreement was leaving them with fewer legislative hours to approve the landmark accord, said Joseph Biden, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Commenting on reports that New Delhi may be seeking to move forward with necessary negotiations and agreements despite the Leftist threat to pull the plug on the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, Biden said he was committed to working hard to get the Congressional approval for the accord.

“If these reports are in fact true, and I hope they are, I am committed to work hard in order to get Congress to approve such a deal - as long as the required steps are taken and if the agreement with the United States meets the requirements of US law,” Biden said in a statement.

“But, as I told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi in February, time is running out very quickly. Every day without an agreement leaves us fewer legislative days before this Congressional term ends,” he said.

India and the US finalised the implementing 123 agreement last July. But it cannot be operationalised until the US Congress gives it its final approval in an up or down vote.

Before that New Delhi needs to sign an India-specific safeguards agreement for its civilian reactors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and get the approval of 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

India has already finalised the agreement with the IAEA, but it has not signed it yet due to persistent opposition by the coalition government’s Leftist supporters.

Besides Biden, several US officials had time and again warned that it would be difficult to get the approval process completed in an election year unless the 123 agreement reached the US Congress before end June.

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