Rice letter raises concerns about conditions in U.S.-Indian nuclear legislation | VailDaily.com

Rice letter raises concerns about conditions in U.S.-Indian nuclear legislation

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says relations with India could suffer if Congress fails to satisfy White House objections to legislation that would allow shipments of U.S. civilian nuclear fuel to India.Critics of the plan say the Bush administration wants to remove what they say are the few remaining restraints against the spread of nuclear weapons. The plan, which President Bush considers a priority, would reverse decades of U.S. anti-proliferation policy.Rice’s misgivings were expressed in a letter to leading lawmakers that The Associated Press obtained Thursday.Her intervention could complicate prospects for approval of the legislation. Lawmakers are trying to finish work on a final version of the bill before they leave for the year. They must reconcile competing bills passed by the House and Senate.Rice’s letter attempts to deal with objections from both the administration and India.For example, before the U.S. could begin nuclear cooperation with India, the president would have to determine that India was “fully and actively” helping U.S.-led efforts to confront Iran’s nuclear program, according to the Senate’s version.Rice said this would be viewed by India “as adding additional conditions” to the original agreement and “could reopen the terms of the initiative to renegotiating.”Rice also cited a section in the Senate bill that would ban the transfer of nuclear enrichment and reprocessing equipment or facilities to India. “It is not appropriate to single out India, which has been a responsible steward of its nuclear technology,” she wrote.Supporters say the accord strengthens an important relationship with a friendly Asian power that long has maintained what the United States considers a responsible nuclear program.”There’s been a consistent sense by the Indian side that there’s been a movement of the goal posts” as Congress considers an agreement reached in July 2005 by Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.”The failure to follow through on the reached agreement between the two countries would send a very negative message to India,” Crowley said.Critics say the plan could boost India’s nuclear arsenal and spark an arms race in South Asia.”It’s not a good day for nuclear nonproliferation,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. “Apparently, Secretary Rice is allergic to even these few nonproliferation fig leaves which have allowed the flawed agreement to proceed.”

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