Manmohan Singh arrives in US, Senate panel approves n-deal (lead)

September 24th, 2008 - 5:53 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghWashington, Sep 24 (IANS) A key US Senate panel voted 19-2 to approve the India civil-nuclear deal as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in the US hoping to seal the landmark agreement during his four day visit.The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favour of the deal at a business meeting Tuesday afternoon with only Russell Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat and Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, voting against the agreement.

“An original bill to approve the United States-India Agreement for Cooperation on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, and for other purposes” was added as the ninth and last item on the agenda of the committee at the last minute.

The senate step pushed the prospects of the deal’s approval by the US Congress before Manmohan Singh meets President George W. Bush at the White House Sep 25.

The Business Committee of the Congress is still to decide whether to waive the mandatory 30-day waiting period before taking up the legislation for approval of the implementing 123 agreement. It also has to decide if there will be a separate or joint resolution of Congress to approve the 123 pact.

However, there is still an element of uncertainty with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs yet to indicate if and when it’s going to take up the issue.

The Committee’s Democratic chair Howard Berman, says he supports the deal but has reservations about the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for India.

The bill text approved by the Senate Tuesday did not include language advocated by Berman to give the US Congress greater say over future such agreements.

Berman is reported to have proposed changing the US Atomic Energy Act so that any future agreements would become effective only if Congress votes to approve them in return for speeding up approval of the India deal. Such agreements now typically go into effect unless Congress rejects them during a 60-day period.

The Senate panel push for the India deal came as lawmakers and officials grappled with a $700 billion Bush administration bailout plan for Wall Street facing a melt down. The Congress is currently scheduled to adjourn Sep 26 for the Nov 4 elections, but the session may be extended to deal with the crisis.

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