Page last updated at 00:55 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 01:55 UK

US approves Indian nuclear deal

India's Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, located 30km from Mumbai (Bombay)
The deal would give India access to US civilian nuclear technology

The US Senate has approved a nuclear deal with India, ending a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with Delhi.

The 86-13 vote was the last legislative hurdle in a process that began when an agreement was reached in 2005.

The deal will give India access to US civilian nuclear technology and fuel in return for inspections of its civilian, but not military, nuclear facilities.

India says the accord is vital to meet its rising energy needs. Critics say it creates a dangerous precedent.

They say it effectively allows India to expand its nuclear power industry without requiring it to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as other nations must.

The US restricted nuclear co-operation with India after it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

'Bipartisan support'

The US House of Representatives passed the agreement on Saturday, and the Senate's vote now means President Bush can sign it into law.

India has 14 reactors in commercial operation and nine under construction
Nuclear power supplies about 3% of India's electricity
By 2050, nuclear power is expected to provide 25% of the country's electricity
India has limited coal and uranium reserves
Its huge thorium reserves - about 25% of the world's total - are expected to fuel its nuclear power programme long-term
Source: Uranium Information Center

Before the Senate vote, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the agreement had "strong bipartisan support" and called it a "landmark" deal.

Although India has said it retains the right to conduct nuclear tests, the US has said the deal would be cancelled in such an eventuality.

The House of Representatives passed the agreement by 298-117 votes late on Saturday.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said the deal will help India to liberate itself from "the constraints of technology denial of 34 years".

It was first agreed three years ago and is regarded as a key foreign policy priority for both the Indian and US governments.

Earlier this month, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) lifted a ban that had denied India access to the international nuclear market.

On Tuesday, India and France signed a major co-operation pact which paves the way for the sale of French nuclear reactors to Delhi.

France is the world's second largest producer of nuclear energy after the United States. Russia has also been lobbying the Indian government hard on behalf of its firms.

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