US nearly ready to present India n-deal to Congress

September 11th, 2008 - 1:19 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 10 (IANS) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Wednesday pushed hard to present the India-US civil nuclear deal approval package to Congress by the end of the day as she kept up her efforts to woo the lawmakers.Rice is pushing to get the Hyde Amendment package “up to the Hill by the end of today. We’ll… right now it looks like we might be able to make that deadline,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

The US was just awaiting word from New Delhi about India having made “substantial progress” towards signing an additional safeguards protocol with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), he said.

“We need that last - we need that bit of information to include in the Hyde Amendment package,” McCormack said.

“I think the Indian government and the IAEA are in the best position to describe where they are in their discussions.

“But I think probably in the final stages, at least as of this morning, of arriving at the understanding and completing all the paperwork and exchanging the information that they needed to exchange,” McCormack said.

The approval package, he said, is “still going through the internal and inter-agency clearance process, and there are a number of administrative steps that you need to take in order to formally transmit something from the executive branch up to the legislative branch.

“But I think right now, standing here right now, I think we’re on a track to get that up there, pending that last piece from India and the IAEA,” he said.

Asked if Rice was expecting to hear something hopefully related to progress on that from the visiting Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony, whom she met later, McCormack said: “This is a pre-scheduled visit, but I’m sure the India civic nuke deal will come up.

“They’ll also talk about US-India military cooperation. I don’t know the specifics of it.”

Asked how had Rice’s meetings Tuesday with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman had gone, the spokesman said he did not have a chance to talk to Rice about the two crucial meetings.

“And I wouldn’t want to try to convey any impressions other than her own of those meetings.”

Keeping up her push, Rice was scheduled to meet the Senate majority leader Harry Reid to talk about the India deal.

With Democrats, who are not too keen to let Bush score a major foreign policy at the fag end of his term, in control of both houses; Pelosi and Berman have emerged as key players in efforts to push the approval process on the fast track.

Berman supports the nuclear deal, but has reservations about the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for India and Pelosi is not keen on extending the current Congress session scheduled to end Sep 26 or calling a lame-duck session after the Nov 4 elections to approve the deal.

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