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Democrats willing to take up N-deal in Senate

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
Last updated on: November 09, 2006 11:50 IST
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The Indo-US civil nuclear agreement could be cleared by the US Congress this year with key Democratic law makers saying that they were ready to go with the Bush Administration on the bill enabling the deal soon after they wrested control of the Capitol Hill.

Allaying fears that a power shift from Republicans will impede the passing of the deal in the Senate, President George W Bush and Senate Democratic party leader Harry Reid said they wanted the deal with India to be taken up in the Lame Duck session, likely to take place on November 15-16.

"I am trying to get the Indian (nuclear) deal done, the Vietnam (trade) deal done and the budgets done," Bush said at a media conference in reply to a question.

Endorsing the view, Reid said: "India is the largest democracy in the world. We want to work with them, and it is important we move along the lines."

Expressing hope that the bill on the deal would be considered when Congress meets next week, Joe Biden, a top Democrat on the Senate's Foreign Affairs panel, said lawmakers were 'ready to go with the India bill.'

Biden said it will take 'at least a day's worth of debate, no more than two,' to settle the bill in the Senate. With the deal receiving bipartisan support, Biden said it will be cleared 'with a very large vote.' If the Senate takes up the nuclear deal next week, New Delhi is optimistic that it will enable completion of the Congressional processes by year-end. 

However, Biden added that it was up to the Senate's Republican leader Bill Frist on whether the bill would be considered.

"A lot of this depends on the mood and whether or not we have all become mature enough to say, OK, the voters have spoken. Let us move on and let us get going," Biden said.

The comments come amid apprehensions about the fate of the 'The Indo-US Peaceful Atomic energy Cooperation Act of 20006' or 'S3709' in view of the Democrats' impressive show in the Congressional polls and the reservations expressed by party hawks who claim the deal will be setback to non-proliferation efforts.

The Indo-US civil nuclear deal, aimed at lifting a three-decade US ban on supply of nuclear fuel and equipment to India to help New Delhi meet its energy need, was reached during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the US in July last year.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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