Top US lawmaker targets civil nuclear pacts

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A top US lawmaker condemned a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia as "potentially dangerous" Thursday and vowed to introduce legislation to require congressional approval of such pacts.

"The US-Russia nuclear cooperation agreement that went into effect this week never got a vote in Congress," House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, said in a statement.

"The Atomic Energy Act must be reformed so that these far-reaching and potentially dangerous agreements are required to receive an up-or-down vote in Congress before going into effect," she said.

The accord, signed by President Barack Obama's predecessor George W. Bush in 2008, allows US companies to sell nuclear materials, reactors and major reactor components to Russia and is designed to curb the illicit spread of atomic know-how.

The agreement, also known as a "123" agreement, languished as ties between Washington and Moscow frayed -- leading Obama to make a "reset" in relations one of his top foreign policy priorities.

"Russia did not deserve such a concession from the U.S. given its ongoing support for Iran's nuclear program," said Ros-Lehtinen, who accused Moscow of being a "shield" for Tehran against tougher international sanctions.

"If Congress had had an opportunity to vote on the U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation pact, I believe that a clear bipartisan majority would have voted to stop it," she said.

"I will soon introduce legislation to reform the Atomic Energy Act to require Congressional approval of future agreements, as well as a presidential certification to Congress that a number of requirements have been met and documentation that the agreement will advance US interests," she said.

© 2011 AFP

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