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Bush to sign US-India nuclear deal

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October 08, 2008 – Comments (1)

Tue Oct 7, 5:24 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush will sign legislation enacting a landmark US-India nuclear agreement in a high-profile ceremony at the White House on Wednesday, his press office said Tuesday.

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Vice President Dick Cheney, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, and India's ambassador to Washington, Ronen Sen, will attend the event in the ornate East Room of the presidential mansion.

US lawmakers, and roughly 200 guests including Indian-American community leaders, will also attend the signing ceremony, according to Bush spokesman Carlton Carroll.

"The president looks forward to signing this bill into law and continuing to strengthen the US-India Strategic Partnership," Carroll said in a statement.

"This legislation will strengthen our global nuclear nonproliferation efforts, protect the environment, create jobs, and assist India in meeting its growing energy needs in a responsible manner," he said.

Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh first agreed to it in July 2005 as part of a strategic partnership between the world's two biggest democracies, but ran into objections from critics worried about the spread of nuclear know-how.

Rice and others had to lobby hard to win approval for the deal from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which controls global atomic trade.

She also pushed hard for the agreement -- which lifts a ban on civilian nuclear trade imposed after India first conducted a nuclear test explosion in 1974 -- to be approved by both Houses of Congress.

Lawmakers had sought safeguards on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons technology before passing it overwhelmingly last week and handing the increasingly unpopular Bush administration a foreign policy success.

But critics say it still undermines global efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons, because India has refused to sign the international non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The pact offers India access to sophisticated US technology and cheap atomic energy in return for New Delhi allowing UN inspections of some of its civilian nuclear facilities.

Military nuclear sites will remain closed to international inspections.

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