- The Washington Times - Monday, March 6, 2006

India lobbies Hill

India’s friends on Capitol Hill are taking up the fight to overcome congressional opposition to a landmark nuclear deal signed by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The U.S.-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) hopes that supporters such as Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, can persuade some powerful House colleagues to back legislation to authorize the agreement. Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen chairs the House International Relations subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia.

Sanjay Puri, chairman of the USINPAC, called the deal a “historic step for both countries.”

Under the agreement, the United States can sell peaceful nuclear technology to India in exchange for India allowing international inspections of its nuclear power facilities. Critics object to the deal because it does not cover India’s nuclear weapons program and because India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“This is an historic step for both countries and USINPAC stands with President Bush and Prime Minister Singh in moving this process forward,” Mr. Puri said. “In fact, for the past eight months USINPAC has aggressively worked to get key members of Congress on board, and we will not rest until this agreement is signed into law.”

U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford is also part of a full-court press by the Bush administration to win congressional approval of the accord.

Mr. Mulford told India’s NDTV that Mr. Bush’s visit to New Delhi last week “is certainly the most important visit any president of the United States has made to India.” The nuclear accord, clinched just as Mr. Bush was being welcomed in India, was the centerpiece of the visit.

But several key lawmakers have expressed doubts about the complex accord, and say Congress will be demanding details.

Asked about the accord’s chances on Capitol Hill, Mr. Mulford said, “The deal has been negotiated. It’s a very constructive deal, a credible deal. I believe it would get the positive attention it deserves.”

Romanian bird flu

The U.S. ambassador to Romania wants Washington to allocate more money than the $1.25 million earmarked to help Romania fight bird flu.

“Our two governments will continue to work together to contain the virus and to prepare for a possible pandemic that is being discussed by scientists and health professionals worldwide,” Ambassador Nicholas Taubman told reporters yesterday in the Romanian capital of Bucharest.

Romania has discovered 41 cases of avian influenza and slaughtered more than 200,000 chickens and other poultry since an outbreak in October.

Jailed in Yemen

Yemen sentenced two teenagers to five years in prison for attempting to assassinate a former U.S. ambassador.

Hezam Ali Hassan, 17, and Khaled Saleh, 18, will serve their terms in a “special prison” for youthful criminals, the presiding judge said Sunday.

Hassan and Saleh plotted to kill Ambassador Edmund Hull while he was shopping in the capital, San’a, the Associated Press reported. Hassan carried a pistol and two hand grenades, and Saleh was armed with a machine gun.

Store guards arrested them before they could carry out their plan.

Event canceled

The Inter-American Dialogue yesterday canceled an event scheduled for tomorrow on a survey on the attitudes of Americans and Mexicans toward each other’s country. The survey was conducted by Zogby International and Mexico’s Center for Research for Development.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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