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Approve N-deal, IAEA chief appeals to US Congress
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

MOHAMMED ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Wednesday urged members of the U.S. Congress to approve a deal that would let the U.S. share civilian nuclear technology with India. “To me, this is a win-win agreement and I hope it will be also for Congress,” Dr. ElBaradei said after a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington in which the two discussed the India deal.

Miss Rice noted Dr. ElBaradei's support for the deal, and said this was so “not because he is trying to intervene in U.S.-India relations, but as we have talked about it because we need to broaden our concept of the nonproliferation regime in order to deal with anomalies like the Indian situation.”

Dr. ElBaradei said the U.S. and the IAEA were trying to “look to the big picture in making sure that we have innovative measures to ensure that sensitive proliferation technology, like enrichment or reprocessing is contained.”

The reaction from Democrats in Congress to the deal has ranged from lukewarm to hostile. There are 10 co-sponsors of the Senate bill on the deal, but none are Democrats.

A Republican congressional aide told the Tribune, Democratic senators “John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden come to receptions and speak endlessly about stronger U.S-India relations, but the fact that they have not signed on speaks volumes about their true lack of support."

There are barely three months of work left in the present Congress this year and with such a small window it is unlikely the deal will be approved in a rush.

"The timeline for the passage of this deal in this Congress is very short,” said the congressional aide. “Democrats don't want to hand President Bush a major foreign policy victory before the elections. Despite their rhetoric on supporting India, they will sacrifice better relations with India to score political points. If the Democrats take the House after the elections in November, it is very likely the bill will be watered down or so many conditions are heaped on it, it benefits neither side. The intent will be to kill the deal and blame the Indian side for its failure to pass, so Democrats do not get blamed."

Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, co-chairman of the House International Relations Committee, has suggested a legislative proposal that would keep the deal alive until a consensus can be built in Congress. The Bush administration is, however, not keen that Mr. Lantos delay the committee vote on the bill.

Congressional sources say the administration is taking a gamble during a markup of the bill in the committee if lawmakers haven't solidified their support beforehand because amendments can be added to weaken the deal with burdensome conditions. A markup is the process by which congressional committees and subcommittees debate, amend, and rewrite proposed legislation. The bill has not reached this stage in either the House International Relations Committee or the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

These congressional sources say the administration needs to ensure it has full support before this bill is brought up for a markup in order to beat back any amendments that seek to weaken the agreement.




India, US review N-deal progress

London, May 25
Amid optimism over the passage of the civil nuclear deal by the US Congress, India today said “some work” still needed to be done as top officials of the two countries reviewed progress on it. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said: “There is still work to be done.” — PTI


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