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Nuclear Deal With India Wins US Senate Backing Thursday, 85-12

By Thom Shanker
THE NEW YORK TIMES


WASHINGTON

The Senate gave overwhelming approval late Thursday to President Bush’s deal for nuclear cooperation with India, a vote that expressed that a goal of nurturing India as an ally outweighed concerns over the risks of spreading nuclear know-how and bomb-making materials.

By a vote of 85-12, senators agreed to a program that would allow the United States to send nuclear fuel and technology to India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The agreement, negotiated by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in March, calls for the United States to end a decades-long moratorium on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components. For its part, India would divide its reactor facilities into civilian and military nuclear programs, with civilian facilities open to international inspections.

Critics have been unwavering in arguing that the pact would rally nations, such as North Korea and Iran, to press ahead with nuclear weapons programs despite international complaints and threats. Opponents of the measure also warned the deal would allow India to build more bombs with its limited stockpile of radioactive material, and could spur a regional nuclear arms race with Pakistan and China.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hailed the measure’s passage as “one more important step toward a vibrant and exciting relationship between our two great democracies.”

His endorsement was significant, coming from a Senator respected for efforts in nonproliferation and whose name is part of a sweeping program to secure nuclear bomb-making materials in the former Soviet Union. He also expressed “thanks for a truly bipartisan effort” to Sen. Joseph R. Biden, the Delaware Democrat set to become Foreign Relations chairman with the new Congress.

While advocates of the measure said it would be an incentive for India to refrain from further nuclear tests, denunciations came quickly from a minority of senators who opposed it, as well as from critics in the House.

“It is a sad day for U.S. national security when the Senate passes a sweeping exemption to our nonproliferation laws that will allow India to increase its annual bomb-production capacity from seven to over 40 bombs a year,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., co-chair of the House Bipartisan Taskforce on Nonproliferation.