US prepares to clear last n-deal hurdle - Congressional nod

September 7th, 2008 - 10:33 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 7 (IANS) With the nuclear suppliers Group (NSG) giving India a waiver, the US is preparing for one more push to clear the last hurdle for their historic civil nuclear deal - final approval by the Congress.US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said she would speak in coming days with the leaders of the relevant congressional committees to push for the deal’s approval by the legislature before it adjourns for the year Sep 26 to campaign for November elections.

“The Congressional calendar is short. The main thing is that the international work is now done,” Rice said. “I certainly hope we can get it through,” she told reporters travelling with her on a tour of North African countries Saturday.

“It’s a really very big step forward for the non-proliferation framework,” she said, adding “It’d be a huge step for the US-India relationship,” Rice was quoted as saying. “It’s no secret that India has been outside the non-proliferation regime for the entire history of its programme.”

The top US diplomat said she had made “a lot of calls” to foreign officials to help win NSG approval. President George Bush, who looks at the India deal as a “historic achievement” of his foreign policy, too is reported to have spoken to leaders of some hold out NSG members.

“We understand that time is very short,” Rice was quoted as saying. “We will just have to see whether it is possible for Congress.”

“In any case we will have left a very good package and I hope it would be taken up (by the next US administration),” she said.

Both the presidential candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, are supportive of the deal. Though Obama had moved a “killer amendment” when Hyde Act was taken up, he is now on record as saying if elected he would not seek any changes in the India deal.

Under the enabling US law, the Hyde Act, 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.

Of the two legislative chambers, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joe Biden, who is now Obama’s running mate, has vowed to push the nuclear deal in the Congress “like the devil” if New Delhi gets its end done.”

Biden, who as then ranking member of the Republican controlled panel, played a key role in getting the Hyde Act passed in a lame duck session in December 2006, is again expected to get into the act to see the deal through in the narrow time window available despite his own preoccupations as a vice presidential candidate.

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