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Senate panel to review nuke deal

The Bill aimed at facilitating implementation of the Indo-US accord was introduced on Thursday.

india Updated: Mar 17, 2006 10:21 IST

Introducing a bill in the US Senate seeking amendment of the Atomic Energy Act, the Chair of Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar said his panel would closely review the proposed legislation, the US-India nuclear agreement and New Delhi's separation plan.

The Bill, which seeks to waive the application of certain requirements under the 1954 Act, is aimed at facilitating the implementation of the landmark US-India civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement.

Lugar said that the first of classified hearings on the subject, with Undersecretaries of State Nicholas Burns and Robert Joseph, would start in his Committee by end of March.

"By providing this draft legislation to the Senate and the House of Representatives, the administration has taken the first step in initiating the Congressional review of the US-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement," Lugar said in a statement for the Congressional Record.

"The Committee on Foreign Relations will review the proposed nuclear cooperation agreement, the Indian separation plan, and this legislation closely," he said.

The Committee has held one hearing so far in which Burns and Joseph as well as outside experts testified, he said.

Lugar said he had joined a number of House and Senate lawmakers to discuss the agreement with President Bush at the White House last week and repeatedly met administration officials on the issue.

According to Lugar, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will testify in an open hearing in the first week of April and following the Easter recess, the Committee will receive testimony from panels of outside experts who either support or oppose the agreement.

"This schedule should be looked on as the beginning of the oversight and review process. It is possible additional Committee hearings and briefings will be necessary," he said.

The time frame for the House International Relations Committee is expected to be more or less the same as that of the Senate.

In a special briefing at the State Department to coincide with the introduction of legislation in the Senate and the House, Undersecretary Burns noted that the legislative process would go on for the "next several months" and this was "somewhat a lengthy process".

Burns said that the administration was encouraged by the support given to the agreement by lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate and held out hope that many more will sign on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

While Lugar introduced the legislation in the Senate, it was co-sponsored in the House by the Chair of the International Relations Committee Henry Hyde and ranking member Tom Lantos.