US President Barack Obama revived a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with Russia Monday as part of efforts to improve relations, an Obama policy priority. The proposed agreement permits the transfer of technology, material and equipment.
REUTERS - U.S. President Barack Obama revived an agreement with Russia on Monday in which the two countries would cooperate on civilian nuclear energy, almost two years after it was shelved over Russia's war with Georgia.
Obama's effort to renew the agreement is the latest step in attempts to "restart" U.S. relations with Russia, one of his top foreign policy priorities. Relations between Moscow and Washington reached a post-Cold War low in 2008 during the conflict with Georgia, a U.S. ally.
Obama said the situation in Georgia no longer needs to be seen as an obstacle to the deal. The Democratic president cited Moscow's cooperation on Iran, as the United States pushes for tighter international sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.
"The level and scope of U.S.-Russia cooperation on Iran are sufficient to justify resubmitting the proposed agreement to the Congress," Obama said in a letter to U.S. lawmakers.
Urging Congress to support the deal, Obama said he had "determined that performance of the proposed agreement will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security."
The United States and Russia have "significantly increased cooperation" on nuclear non-proliferation and civilian nuclear energy in the past 12 months, Obama said.
Russia has indicated its support for a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iran and, last month, Washington and Moscow signed a new START treaty cutting nuclear arms.
Giving too much to Moscow?
The agreement is not a treaty and thus not officially subject to congressional approval but it must be submitted to Congress for a 90-day review and lawmakers can vote to kill the deal before it becomes effective.
Some Republicans in Congress have expressed concern that Obama is going too far in Russia's direction without getting enough in return from Moscow in terms of concrete support for sanctions against Iran and other concessions.
The proposed agreement permits the transfer -- subject to U.S. licensing decisions -- of technology, material and equipment including reactors and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production.
The deal, which has a term of 30 years, also would let Russia reprocess spent nuclear fuel that originated in the United States, and allow joint nuclear energy ventures by U.S. and Russian companies.
It does not permit transfers of restricted data.
The pact was signed in Moscow on May 6, 2008, and approved by then-President George W. Bush, a Republican. But it was shelved before completion of a 90-day review period because of the war with Georgia.
Georgia has slipped far from the top of the international diplomatic agenda and Georgia's Western allies have largely deserted President Mikhail Saakashvili after his disastrous attempt to retake the rebel province of South Ossetia triggered a war with Russia and a crushing military defeat.
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