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U.S. Congress clears Defense Budget


08:54, December 16, 2011

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to pass a massive Defense Authorization Bill that included language to appease the White House on terrorist detainee issue, as well as sanctions on Iran's central bank.

The Senate passed the budget in a 86-13 vote. The bill would pay for military personnel, weapons programs, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and national security programs in the Energy Department.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday evening passed the same bill, sending it for President Barack Obama's signature. The White House has indicated that Obama is likely to sign it.

The bill cleared the Congress a day after the White House dropped a veto threat over terrorist detainee issue. It requires the military take custody of a suspect deemed to be a member of al- Qaeda or its affiliates, who is involved in plotting or committing attacks against the United States. U.S. citizens are exempted.

But answering demands from the White House, the bill contains language that says it will not affect "existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the FBI or any other domestic law enforcement agency" with regard to a captured suspect, and the president can waive the provision based on national security.

The bill also demands sanctions on Iran's central bank and freezing some aid to Pakistan. It requests new sanctions on Iran, targeting foreign financial institutions that do business with the Islamic republic's central bank. However, as a result of changes made to the original version of the bill, the president can waive the penalties by notifying the Congress that the move is in the interest of U.S. national security.

Government officials said sanctions on the central bank, the main conduit for Iran's oil revenues, could roil markets and push up prices.

The bill also freezes 700 million U.S. dollars in aid for Pakistan until the Congress gets a report from the defense secretary on how Islamabad is countering the threat of improvised explosive devices against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

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