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PM, Bush may sign 123 agreement in Washington, says US envoy
September 09, 2008 12:39 IST
Last Updated: September 09, 2008 14:43 IST
With the Nuclear Suppliers Group granting a waiver to India, the 123 agreement is expected to be presented before the American Congress in the next few days for its approval, required as the final step to conclude the Indo-United States nuclear agreement.
Ambassador David Mulford on Tuesday said the 123 agreement could be signed during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] to the US later this month if the pact is passed by the Congress by then.
He told reporters that the 'bipartisan' support that was there in the US Congress during the passage of the 123 agreement last year still exists and hoped for an early approval of the pact by the American legislature by an 'up-and-down' vote.
If the agreement is not passed by the US Congress during its current session which ends on September 26, there is possibility of a 'lame-duck' session after the Presidential polls in November, he said.
"We are now in the final phase... The 123 agreement is to be presented before the US Congress. That process is ongoing. We hope to do it in the next few days and then hope for action (by the Congress)," Mulford said.
He said senior officials of the US administration are engaged in a dialogue with the key leaders of the Congress with regard to the introduction of the agreement.
On the requirement of 30-day notice for introduction of any document in the US Congress for approval, he said there has been a precedent of waiving this requirement.
Mulford said the formal introduction of the 123 agreement in the US Congress requires presentation of the India-International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement and NSG waiver and the two documents are likely to be furnished in a couple of days.
He hoped that the Congress would take early action and approve the agreement considering the strong bipartisan support which is reflected by the statements of Republican and Democrat Presidential candidates John McCain [Images] and Barack Obama [Images].
He sought to downplay the controversy triggered by a letter of US State Department to Howard Berman, chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, in which the Bush administration said the assurance of fuel supplies was not to insulate India against consequences of a nuclear test.
"There is nothing new (in the letter) that the Government of India did not know. The content in the material was known. The content is what we have discussed with India," the US ambassador said, insisting that there is 'no discrepancy in the letter.
He said the fuel supplies will be governed by the 123 agreement.
On transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technology, Mulford said the current US policy does not allow it with regard to any country.
Mulford added that he is optimistic about bipartisan support about the India-US civilian nuclear agreement.
Speaking about China's role in the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting on the India-specific waiver, Mulford said the communist country did the right thing in the end.
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