Page last updated at 21:52 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 22:52 UK

Bush signs US-India nuclear bill

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

US President George W Bush has signed into law a nuclear deal with India, which ends a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with Delhi.

The landmark agreement was approved by the US Congress nearly a week ago.

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.

'Natural partners'

At a White House signing ceremony, President Bush said: "This agreement sends a signal to the world: Nations that follow the path to democracy and responsible behaviour will find a friend in the United States of America."

He said: "Even though the United States and India are separated by half the globe, we are natural partners as we head into the 21st Century."

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

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and Indian Foreign Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, are expected to formally sign the overall bilateral nuclear co-operation accord on Friday.

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

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

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 US Senate approved the deal in a 86-13 vote last week. The House of Representatives earlier passed the agreement by 298-117 votes.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) recently lifted a ban that had denied India access to the international nuclear market.

India and France have also 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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