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Keep quiet on N-deal, US tells lawmakers
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May 09, 2008 23:44 IST

The United States' State Department has asked Congress members to keep quiet about the details of the Indo-US nuclear agreement, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The State Department reportedly decided to ask Congress members to keep quiet about details of the deal as it fears that disclosure of any more information may worsen the chances of the deal, which is already in dire straits.

Repiblican Tom Lantos, the late chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has already agreed to the request.  Republican Howard L Berman, the current chairman of the committee, is also expected to agree to the State Department's request. 

Though nonproliferation experts have slammed the decision to keep details of the nuclear deal quiet, the few Congress members who have read them, have chosen to keep quiet, the Post reported.

"The administration's unwillingness to make their answers more widely available suggests they have something to hide from either US or Indian legislators," the report quoted Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, as saying.

The details of the deal � answers to questions posed by Congress members � reveal how the US has managed to balance its nonproliferation laws and India's apprehensions about the deal.

The Congress passed the Hyde Act, a law to provisionally accept the agreement, but there are still many questions about critical details of the agreement, states the report.

For example, it is not clear if the US would terminate nuclear trade with India if the latter conducts a nuclear test, states the Post.

Lawmakers are also reportedly asking if the United States' commitment -- to supply India with a 'reliable supply of fuel' for its reactors and 'guard against the disruption of fuel supplies' � is legally binding. The Post points out that the agreement doesn't spell out if the commitment will be affected by India conducting nuclear tests, or the exact definition of 'disruption of fuel supplies'.

The State Department is trying to keep the answers to these vital questions away from public scrutiny.

A State Department spokesperson told the Washington Post that though detailed answers were provided to Congressmen, they have been asked to keep quiet as the information may be 'diplomatically sensitive'.

Moreover, the report says that the State Department does not intend to make the answers public.

"We've handled answers to sensitive questions in an appropriate way that responded to congressional concerns. We're going to continue with that approach," the Post quoted State Department spokesman Tom Casey as saying. 

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