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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 04:33 GMT 05:33 UK
Cheney confident of nuclear deal
US vice-president Dick Cheney speaking at a meeting of India and US businessmen
Cheney says the agreement will benefit both India and US
US Vice-President Dick Cheney has said that a landmark nuclear deal with India will win support of the US Congress despite strong opposition by critics.

Mr Cheney said in Washington that the deal was "one of the most important strategic foreign policy initiatives of President Bush's second term".

The deal would give India access to US nuclear technology.

It reverses US policy, which had restricted nuclear co-operation since India tested a nuclear weapon in 1974.

The agreement was finalised during US President George W Bush's visit to India in March.

We hope Congress will move quickly to enact legislation that enables our two nations to move forward on this important agreement without delay
Dick Cheney

Under the deal, energy-hungry India will get access to US civil nuclear technology and open its nuclear facilities to inspection.

Critics of the deal say it sends the wrong message to countries like Iran, whose nuclear ambitions Washington opposes.


"We hope Congress will move quickly to enact legislation that enables our two nations to move forward on this important agreement without delay," Cheney was quoted telling a meeting of the most influential American and Indian business group in Washington by the Reuters news agency.

The final vote on the proposed agreement is not expected till the middle of July.

Before that, next week, on 27 and 28 June, the proposed deal must go through a rigorous assessment process by the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee of Congress.

The BBC's Shahzeb Jilani in Washington says lobbying is intensifying to garner support for the deal.

President Bush in India
The deal was signed during President Bush's visit to India

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has personally contacted US House of Representatives and senators to get them on board while US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns has been spending a lot of time at the Capitol Hill to counter opposition to the deal.

Our correspondent says opinion is divided in Washington on whether the Bush administration has the bipartisan support it claims it has on the deal.

Critics believe that at a time when stand-off with North Korea and Iran is deepening, the civilian cooperation deal between US and India severely undermines the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Opponents of the deal also believe that by creating an exception for India, US is rewarding a country who has so far refused to sign up to the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The Bush administration has responded to the criticism by pointing out that under the deal, India will be obliged to open up its civilian nuclear sites to international safeguards under the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

"This deal is good for America's long term interests and it is good for nuclear non-proliferation," Mr Burns told the meeting in Washington.

Bush hails partnership with India
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