The US Congress said on Thursday it would examine a landmark civilian nuclear agreement with India sent for approval by the White House, as leaders of the two countries prepared to meet this month.
Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joseph Biden, who heads the Senate foreign relations committee, said the key panel "will act promptly to review the agreement in a hearing, as soon as next week."
Howard Berman, the chairman of the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee, "wants to study" the various documents on the nuclear deal submitted by the White House on Wednesday, his spokeswoman Lynne Weil said.
Berman "voted for the Hyde Act and supports civilian nuclear cooperation with India," she said, referring to a US law adopted in December 2006 laying the foundation for the deal.
The nuclear agreement, signed by President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005, offers India access to Western technology and cheap atomic energy as long as it allows UN nuclear inspections of some of its nuclear facilities.
If Congress endorses the agreement it would lift a three decade-old ban on nuclear trade with India.
The Nuclear Suppliers' Group, a regulator of sale of nuclear fuel and technology, approved the deal last week after some countries, including China and New Zealand, expressed reservation about opening up nuclear commerce with India, which is not a member of the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The White House said on Thursday that Bush would welcome Singh on September 25 for talks on bilateral relations, including the nuclear deal.
Singh's visit will "strengthen the strategic partnership and build upon our progress in other areas of cooperation, such as agriculture, education, trade, and defense," Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.
"The president looks forward to working with Congress to ensure passage on the agreement this year," she said.
A US administration official said he was not aware of any agreement to be signed by the two leaders on the nuclear deal.
"The fact that they agreed to meet at this particular time is a strong indication that both sides really are satisfied with the level of effort that they put into it," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.