- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NEW DELHI (AP) | India’s government survived a hotly contested confidence vote Tuesday, clearing the way for it to finalize a landmark nuclear energy deal with the United States.

The vote capped a week of intense politicking that saw the government rename an airport for a lawmaker’s father, promise a high-level job to another, and - rival politicians claim - hand out millions of dollars to many others in an effort to survive.

Most observers expected a tight vote, and both the Congress party and its opponents did whatever they could to muster their forces. One ailing lawmaker was wheeled in on a gurney, and a handful jailed for crimes ranging from murder to extortion were temporarily released from prison so they could vote.

Under the agreement, India would open its civilian reactors to international inspections in exchange for nuclear fuel and technology, which it has been denied by its refusal to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and testing of atomic weapons.

To finalize the deal, India must now strike separate agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog organization, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group of countries that export nuclear material. The U.S. Congress will then vote on the accord.

In New Delhi, the Congress party-led government won with 275 lawmakers voting for it and 256 against. The number of abstentions was not immediately clear, although not all 543 members of Parliament’s lower house took part in the vote.

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