US working hard to get n-deal done during Manmohan visit

By Arun Kumar,IANS

Washington : With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh coming to meet President George W. Bush here Thursday, the United States said it continued to “work very hard” to get Congressional approval of the India-US civil nuclear deal.

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“We’re doing everything we possibly can,” said State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, in New York Tuesday as the Indian leader arrived in the city on the first leg of his US visit and a key Senate panel approved the landmark accord.

“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 implementing 123 Agreement with India approved by the full Congress during Manmohan Singh’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.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 19-2 in favour of the accord at a business meeting Tuesday afternoon with only Wisconsin Democrat Russell Feingold, and California Democrat Barbara Boxer voting against the agreement.

The only amendment moved by Feingold to toughen restrictions on selling India the technology to reprocess nuclear fuel was defeated on a 15-4 vote.

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

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 melt down rushing to complete the process by Sep 26 when they break for the Nov 4 election.

The Senate panel approval sent the deal to Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid for scheduling a vote in the full Senate after consultations with the Republican Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell.

But 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. Secretary of State Condoleezza 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. The committee spokesperson Lynne Weil, according to a media report, said Berman was discussing ways to expedite a vote on the agreement.