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House OKs shipping atomic fuel to India

WASHINGTON --- The House voted overwhelmingly Saturday to approve a landmark pact that would allow the U.S. to provide nuclear materials to India.

The deal still faces obstacles in the Senate, making prospects uncertain for passage before President Bush leaves office in January. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., a supporter, promised a vote on the accord in the week ahead, possibly Monday.

Hoping to raise the pressure, Mr. Bush quickly issued a statement praising House passage and prodding the Senate to do the same thing.

The House approved the measure 298-117 without debate in an unusual Saturday session, held as lawmakers try to deal with the financial crisis and wrap up the year's business.

The accord reverses three decades of U.S. policy by shipping atomic fuel to India in return for international inspections of India's civilian reactors. Military reactors would not be subject to examination.

Supporters say it would bring India's atomic program under closer scrutiny. Critics say it would boost India's nuclear arsenal and spark an arms race in South Asia.

War funding bill with troop raises approved

WASHINGTON --- Troops would get a pay raise in a defense bill Congress sent President Bush on Saturday. Even before passage, lawmakers had backed away from an election-season showdown with the administration over Iraq.

Legislation approved by a voice vote in the Senate would increase pay by 3.9 percent, extend bonuses and provide money for family housing, tuition assistance and other programs.

The bill, which maps $612 billion in defense spending next year, shows how lawmakers would rather go home and campaign than wage a prolonged battle with Mr. Bush over Iraq.

House-Senate bargainers dropped several provisions Mr. Bush opposed. Eliminated was language barring private interrogators from U.S. military detention facilities and giving Congress a chance to block a security pact with Iraq.

The bill envisions nearly $70 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and requires more information on contractors with projects in Iraq.

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