House approves nuclear pact with India

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives on Saturday approved a controversial deal to expand nuclear cooperation with India after a decades-long ban on exporting nuclear know-how to New Delhi.

The agreement would streamline commercial nuclear trade between the two countries and allow U.S. companies to help India build more civilian nuclear power plants. In exchange, India would allow international inspections of its civilian -- but not military -- nuclear power plants. It would also promise not to resume testing of nuclear weapons.

The White House has pushed strongly for the deal, which the House passed 298-117 in a rare Saturday session.

President Bush called the House vote "a major step forward in achieving the transformation of the U.S.-India relationship."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said the deal "furthers our countries' strategic relationship while balancing nuclear nonproliferation concerns and India's growing energy needs."

The deal could open the way for U.S. companies to earn of tens of billions of dollars in the subcontinent and could dramatically expand nuclear power in India.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice personally lobbied key lawmakers to approve the deal, with her spokesman calling her efforts a "full-court press."

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One sticking point for the United States -- in Congress and with its allies -- has been India's refusal to join the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. Under the agreement, the country would pledge that it will not resume testing of nuclear weapons.

The 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group earlier this month ended a worldwide ban on nuclear trade with India, clearing the way for the U.S.-India agreement.

The agreement must be approved by the Senate before it becomes law.

Bush on Saturday urged the upper house to pass it "before their October adjournment," but it is not clear that the Senate will do so.

India's Cabinet has already approved the deal.

The House bill is H.R. 7081, the United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act.