Congress Questioning Nuclear Pact

WASHINGTON -- U.S. lawmakers troubled by Russia's help for Iran's nuclear program said Thursday that they did not trust Russia enough to approve a pact on civilian nuclear cooperation with Moscow.

A senior U.S. State Department official, however, told a congressional hearing on the pact that Russia had alleviated U.S. concerns about its supplying of nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.

Many lawmakers told a Congressional hearing that they remained unconvinced of the need for the pact, signed last month, which would allow the world's two biggest atomic powers to expand nuclear cooperation.

U.S. President George W. Bush has sent the accord to Congress, and it will go into force later this year unless lawmakers vote to block it.

"What do we get out of this?" Democratic Congressman David Scott, asked during the hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "I don't trust Russia, and I certainly don't trust Iran," Scott said.

Washington believes that Iran harbors ambitions to build an atomic bomb, and the Bush administration initially criticized Russia for delivering nuclear fuel under a contract to build Bushehr.

But Bush has recently taken the position that such a move shows Iran that Russia could be a dependable fuel supplier so that Tehran has no need to enrich uranium itself, with all the weapons proliferation risks that would entail.