Bush administration pushes Congress on India nuclear deal

Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday urged Congress to quickly approve a U.S. proposal to share civilian nuclear technology with India, saying the landmark accord was crucial to America's national security.

A lawmaker critical of the accord warned Thursday that it would toss U.S. commitments to the world's premier international nonproliferation treaty on the "trash-heap."

Cheney, speaking at a U.S.-India Business Council gathering, warned Congress against delays that "risk wasting this critical opportunity."

"The civil nuclear deal is plainly in the interest of both countries, economically, environmentally and from the standpoint of our national security," he said.

The White House is eager to receive congressional approval for what is promoted as a major shift in U.S. policy toward India. But an earlier version of the legislation proposed by the administration met with skepticism in Congress, even among supporters of the plan to ship nuclear fuel and technology to India in return for nuclear safeguards and inspections.

Lawmakers said that legislation forced them to approve a proposal whose details had not been fully negotiated.

A draft of new legislation that members of Congress are now considering would have lawmakers provide an expedited up or down vote on the agreement only after negotiations had been completed and India's proposed nuclear safeguards submitted to lawmakers, according to a summary obtained by The Associated Press.

Lawmakers will meet to discuss the bill at a House of Representatives' International Relations Committee hearing Tuesday.

Congress is crucial to the accord becoming a reality. Lawmakers must exempt India from U.S. laws that restrict trade with countries, such as India, that have not submitted to full nuclear inspections.

Critics fear the plan would allow unfriendly countries to build nuclear weapons programs with impunity, using imported civilian nuclear technology, reports AP.