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India Nuclear Deal Advances

At the urging of the Bush administration, Congress is moving forward with an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation with India.

Earlier this week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the pact, important to U.S. businesses that hope to tap into India’s rapidly growing energy market.

The question has been whether Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would respond in kind.

Berman still has concerns about the Bush administration’s agreement, particularly regarding consequences for India if it tests a nuclear weapon.

“I am also deeply troubled that the administration completely disregarded important nonproliferation requirements in the Hyde Act – thus putting American companies at a competitive disadvantage – when seeking a special exemption for India at the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Berman said.

Still, he forwarded to the House floor a bill differs slightly from the version in the Senate.

“This India legislation includes a number of provisions designed to improve congressional oversight of the India nuclear cooperation agreement,” Berman said.

The deal now faces opposition from other Democrats and a tight time line, since Congress is looking to adjourn soon for the fall campaigns.

“This nuclear deal as written poses unacceptable risks to U.S. national security and does great damage to the international nuclear nonproliferation regime,” said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), urging other Democrats to oppose it.

Should the House pass the bill, as expected, the Senate still would have to consider it.

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