Rice Urges Quick Congress Approval of U.S.-India Nuclear Technology Pact

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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday urged lawmakers to approve a plan this month to share civilian nuclear technology with India.

In a speech to a group of Indian-Americans, Rice noted that legislation implementing the accord between the United States and India was overwhelmingly endorsed by two key congressional panels last month.

President Bush considers the deal one of his premier foreign policy efforts. But, Rice said, "our work is not yet done."

Rice encouraged action before lawmakers leave for a recess in several weeks. The deal also must be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a group of nations that export nuclear material.

Rice's speech Monday followed India's test-firing of a new missile designed to carry nuclear warheads across much of Asia and the Middle East. The Indian defense minister said the test was unsuccessful.

Rice did not mention the launch, but the White House said Monday that it had been alerted by India beforehand.

When asked if the launch would cause problems for the deal in Congress, White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters India's advance notifications "are the sort of things that provide reassurance to people" in Congress.

India developed its nuclear weapons outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is why Congress must approve an exemption to U.S. laws that restrict nuclear trade with countries that have not submitted to full nuclear inspections.

The deal calls for India to allow international inspections and safeguards at 14 civilian nuclear reactors in return for U.S. nuclear trade. India's eight military facilities would remain off-limits. In return, the United States would agree to ship nuclear technology and fuel to India.

Critics say the plan would shred the non-proliferation treaty and allow India to use its domestic uranium for weapons.

Rice said the United States supports the nonproliferation treaty. The Bush administration's goal is to include India, "for the first time ever, in the global nonproliferation regime," she said.