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Key Democrat Senator for quick approval of N-deal

Senator Biden says the final passage of the bill is possible but it depends on the mood of defeated Republicans. In pics

india Updated: Nov 11, 2006 21:30 IST

A key Democratic senator on Wednesday said he was ready to have the US Senate act quickly to approve a landmark nuclear deal with India but other congressional sources said much depends on Republicans who suffered major defeats in mid-term elections.

"I think we're ready to do it. I'm ready to go" on the India bill, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware told reporters.

The senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden is expected to become chairman if Democrats take majority control of the US Senate as now appears likely. It depends on final results of the race in Virginia.

The initiative would allow nuclear-armed India access to US nuclear fuel and reactors for the first time in three decades.

It has been hailed by President George W Bush and others as the core of a new US relationship with India after years of estrangement, and a financial boon to American business.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bill in July.

But despite more than a year of upbeat assessments by administration officials and the intervention of Bush and other top officials, the Republican-led Senate let the India bill languish when the congressional session ended last month.

Congress is expected to soon hold a "lame duck" session, so-called because it will include members of the House of Representatives and Senate who were voted out of office in Tuesday's elections.

Whether there will be time for the Senate to act on the India bill, then have the House and Senate resolve differences in their respective versions of the legislation, then cast a final vote, is unclear.

Biden says he believes final passage is possible but it depends on the "mood" of defeated Republicans and whether they are "mature enough to say the voters have spoken."

A spokesman for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate's No 2 Republican, said, "there's a very good chance" the Indo-US nuclear bill will come up in the lame duck session.

But an aide to Senate Republican leader Bill Frist said Republicans are still insisting Democrats reduce the number of amendments to the bill that would have to be taken up in Senate floor debate.

Biden said he believed the number of Democratic amendments is manageable but the Frist aide said, "We still need them to cut their amendments."

If the Senate fails to pass the bill in November, the entire process must start again - the bill will have to go through the just-elected new Congress, whose new session starts in January.

First Published: Nov 09, 2006 01:41 IST