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U.S. State Department asks Congress to keep quiet about nuclear deal with India

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WASHINGTON, May 9 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. State Department has asked Congress to keep quiet about details of civil nuclear deal with India, the Washington Post reported Friday.

    The deal between Washington and New Delhi "is in such desperate straits that the State Department has imposed unusually strict conditions on the answers it provided to questions posed by members of Congress: Keep them secret," said the newspaper.

    A group of prominent nonproliferation experts has decried the "virtual 'gag' order," but thus far, the answers have not leaked, in part because only a handful of congressional officials have been able to read them, the newspaper said.

    "The administration's unwillingness to make their answers more widely available suggests they have something to hide from either U.S. or Indian legislators," Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, was quoted as saying.

    The United States and India reached an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation in March 2006, under which India will get access to U.S. civil nuclear technology on condition that India is to separate nuclear facilities for civilian and military use and open its nuclear facilities for inspection.

    The nuclear deal, considered a key part of U.S. President George W. Bush's foreign policy legacy, is designed to solidify Washington's relationship with a fast-emerging economic power.

    If U.S. Congress gives the deal final approval, India will be able to engage in civil nuclear trade with the United States, even though it has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    However, the so-called historic agreement has met with strong opposition in both India and the United States.