Hill Accord Reached on Nuclear Fuel for India

Associated Press
Friday, December 8, 2006

Lawmakers reached agreement yesterday on allowing U.S. shipments of civilian nuclear fuel to India, clearing the way for overturning decades of American anti-proliferation policy.

After several days of talks, congressional negotiators signed off on the measure, which reconciles separate versions previously endorsed overwhelmingly by the House and the Senate, said a spokesman for House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

Both chambers of Congress must vote again on the bill before sending it to President Bush to sign into law. Boehner's office said the House was expected to consider the bill today. Details of the final bill were not immediately available.

The bill's passage would be a rare victory for Bush, whose popularity has tumbled. He will also have to deal with a Democratic-controlled Congress in January after his Republican Party was defeated in the Nov. 7 midterm elections.

The White House promotes the India plan as a major shift in U.S. policy toward a country that is strategically an important Asian power, one that has long maintained what the United States considers a responsible nuclear program. Critics say the extra nuclear fuel that the deal would provide could free India's domestic uranium for use in its weapons program. India developed its nuclear weapons outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it has refused to sign.

Congressional aides said the bill became bogged down this week when Boehner halted action, apparently in an attempt to attach unrelated legislation. The majority leader's office said he was not holding up the bill.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns and his Indian counterpart, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, yesterday expressed confidence that each side would be satisfied with the outcome of Congress's work.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company