Rice to approach US Congress Monday for n-deal approval

September 7th, 2008 - 11:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 7 (IANS) Armed with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for India, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to speak to US Congress leaders Monday or Tuesday to push for a quick approval to the India-US civil nuclear deal.Noting that “the time is very short”, Rice said she had already talked several weeks before the NSG’s Vienna meeting “to relevant committee chairs about trying to get it done”.

“And I will have those conversations again, most likely on Monday or Tuesday, as well as trying to see whether the leadership believes that this can go forward,” she told US mediapersons travelling with her in Algiers Saturday.

But before that, as Rice explained, the Bush administration has to send a note to Congress about the two necessary steps taken under the US enabling law, the Hyde Act, namely an India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the NSG waiver.

Under the Hyde Act, the Congress must be in session a full 30 days to consider the nuclear deal. But the White House would have to work with lawmakers to waive this provision and expedite a vote.

“Well, the first thing is that we still have a little more to do on the determinations for the Hyde Act, and we will try to complete that,” Rice said when asked to outline the specific steps she would be taking to get the India deal through the Congress.

“But, look, we understand that the time is very short. We knew that in the summer, when the Indians were able finally to move this forward in their domestic process,” she said.

“But I think we have demonstrated the commitment of the administration to this agreement, because we have worked this with the very, very strong help of partners through the IAEA and through the NSG in very rapid order,” she said.

“I don’t think most people thought that we were going to be able to get this through the NSG this weekend,” Rice said, thanking the German chair of the NSG “for the way that they have worked on this”. “But also we have had, frankly, good cooperation with Britain, France, and Russia - their delegations were very helpful.”

“And I want to thank also the heads of delegations even who had difficulty: for instance, Norway,” she said. “I talked several times with Foreign Minister (Jonas Gahr) Store, who had very strong views about the principles of the non-proliferation regime, but helped us find a way forward,” Rice noted.

“So, it has been a good week for those negotiations. But we will just have to see whether it is still possible in the Congress,” Rice said, adding, “In any case, we will have left a very good package, and I hope that it will be taken up (by the next US administration).”

Both US presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, have welcomed the nuclear cartel’s waiver for India and asked the Bush administration to present the nuclear deal to the Congress quickly.

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