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US Congress likely to discuss N-deal on September 8
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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August 05, 2008 09:26 IST
Last Updated: August 05, 2008 13:49 IST

The Bush administration hopes to present the Indo-US nuclear deal to the US Congress on September 8 for approval and is "positive" of getting the nod from the Nuclear Suppliers Group later this month, a senior official has said.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to represent this to Congress on September 8," the Acting US State Department Spokesman Gonzalo Gonzales said in Washinton on Monday.

He said the US was looking forward to discussing the Indo-US civilian nuclear initiative with the 45-member NSG, which is expected to meet in Vienna [Images] on August 21.

"We've stated often... our support for this deal and the belief that it's important not only for the bilateral relationship but also for nuclear security in the rest of the world. But now that the International Atomic Energy Agency has voted, we're going to look to discuss this issue with the members of the NSG. We're hoping to get a positive result out of that some time in the next month," Gonzales said.

"And then, hopefully, we'll be able to represent this to Congress on September 8," he added in a reference to the date lawmakers are returning for their session after the summer recess period.

The senior state department official was asked if the Bush administration would be able to have this initiative finished by Congress by the time it wraps up the session on September 26.

"We're going to be working with our contacts on the (Capitol) Hill to explain why we believe this is important. And, hopefully, we'll be able to have a positive outcome of this," Gonzales said.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has said that she is staying with the September 26 as the target adjournment date and the Senate Majority leader Harry Reid too could be adopting this timeline for the Senate.

Pelosi has given every indication that Democrats are not inclined for a Lame-Duck session after the November elections, but nothing definitive on this has emerged.

Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher had said in Colombo on Sunday that the US would push through "expeditiously" the NSG process, but added that India would have to answer "a lot of questions" to secure a waiver from the bloc.

Describing the IAEA's approval of the India-specific safeguards pact on August 1 as a "major step", Boucher had said that "now the next step is the NSG."

"If we could do that (NSG process) expeditiously we can deliver the package to the US Congress in September. We have a lot to do in short term. We hope we can bring it to fruition," Boucher said.

"Well by the time we get to the NSG, we hope no country will object. It is simply a process we have been working on with countries who had questions and are getting those questions answered," said Boucher, who was in the Sri Lankan capital as an observer to the regional SAARC summit.

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