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Bill in U.S. Congress for India-specific waiver

Sets in motion the process of implementing civilian nuclear deal

Washington: The United States on Thursday introduced legislation in Congress, setting in motion the process of implementing the Washington-New Delhi civilian nuclear agreement, which will allow the flow of nuclear technology and equipment to India.

The Bill seeks to amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to provide for an India-specific waiver to enable the country to get nuclear technology for its growing energy needs. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by the Republican Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Henry Hyde, and the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Tom Lantos.

On the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a similar legislation was introduced by the Chairman, Senator Richard Lugar, and the ranking Democrat on the panel, Joseph Biden.

The Bill, based on the Bush administration's draft proposal sent last week to the House and the Senate, is the first step towards amending laws such as the Atomic Energy Act, which bars trade in nuclear technology and dual-use items with countries that do not accept full scope safeguards on their nuclear facilities.

NSG must change rules

The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers' Group, which oversees nuclear transfers, must also change its rules.

India has been barred for the last 30 years from acquiring sensitive foreign nuclear technology because it has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Under the March 2 agreement, reached by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, India will receive U.S. nuclear technology in return for separating its military and civil facilities and opening the civilian plants for international inspections.

Congressional hearings on the Bill are expected to begin in two or three weeks.

Conditions likely

Chairman Hyde and Congressman Lantos have expressed reservations about the agreement and are likely to impose unspecified conditions before giving it Congressional approval. UNI