US pushing to bring n-deal to ‘fruition’ during Manmohan visit

September 25th, 2008 - 1:14 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghWashington, Sep 24 (IANS) On the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with President George W. Bush here Thursday, the US kept up its push to bring the India-US civil nuclear deal “to fruition” with Congressional approval.”We want to see passage by the full Senate and to see it go to the House of Representatives for passage,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Wednesday expressing pleasure at a key Senate panel’s 19-2 endorsement of the deal Tuesday.

While the senate step pushed the prospects of the deal’s approval by the full Congress before the Manmohan Singh-Bush meeting, there is still an element of lingering uncertainty with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs yet to indicate if and when it is going to take up the issue.

“This agreement is very important to the US, as well as India,” Wood said while declining comment on “discussions we are having with, you know, members of the House of Representatives”.

“We want to bring India, as we’ve said over and again, back into the non-proliferation mainstream, and this agreement is a good way of doing that,” he said.

“And we’re going to push, we’re going to work with the Congress to bring this agreement to fruition,” the spokesman said. “But, again, I don’t want to get into discussions, comment on the substance of discussions going on between the administration and members of the House.”

Asked if the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is leading the administration’s push to get the deal done during Manmohan Singh’s visit, had made any more calls to lawmakers to push the deal, he said: “I don’t believe so, not in the last day or so.”

But “I’m certainly not going to rule out calls in the future, but at least in the last day or so I don’t believe she has made any to any members of Congress on this subject.”

The House Committee’s Democratic chair Howard Berman is still holding out despite the Bush administration pulling out all stops to get the deal done before Manmohan Singh comes calling. Rice has met Berman a couple of times to keep up the push.

Berman says he supports the deal but has reservations about the Sep 6 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for India for nuclear trade. According to his spokesperson Lynne Weil, Berman is discussing ways to expedite a vote on the agreement with fellow lawmakers.

Another major hurdle is the fact that lawmakers and officials are grappling with a $700 billion Bush administration bailout plan for Wall Street facing a meltdown while rushing to complete the process by Sep 26 when they break for the Nov 4 election.

Earlier, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in New York that US continued to “work very hard” to get Congressional approval of the landmark accord.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can. We continue to work very hard with the Congress on getting this legislation through the Senate as well as the House,” he said when asked if it was possible to get the accord approved by the full Congress during the Indian leader’s visit.

“We have expressed our commitment both in private and in public to members of Congress and to the Indian government to working as hard as we can to get this passed in this session of Congress,” McCormack added.

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