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US to ink N-pact deal with Gulf ally

world Updated: Jan 16, 2009 10:44 IST

AP
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In one of her final diplomatic acts, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to sign a nuclear cooperation deal with the United Arab Emirates, a US ally who some in Congress say has done too little to help stem the illicit flow of nuclear supplies to its Gulf neighbour, Iran.

The first such deal with a Mideast nation, it lays the legal groundwork for US commercial nuclear trade with the UAE, which has foresworn nuclear arms as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

The Bush administration, backed by a leading nuclear-control advocacy group, calls the deal an important expression of US interest in cooperating with countries that want to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses.

President-elect Barack Obama's national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, declined to say whether he supports the deal. It was not raised during Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday but is central to debate about international nuclear controls.

During the presidential transition Obama has explicitly banned direct contacts with foreign interests. Once he takes office, however, his administration will face the decision on whether and when to submit the agreement to Congress, where it has thus far drawn relatively little reaction, pro or con.

A vocal opponent has been Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She has introduced legislation to block the agreement unless the UAE meets certain requirements to stop shipments of equipment and technologies to Iran in violation of US laws and UN sanctions.