U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed Congress to approve a nuclear deal with India after the agreement was endorsed Saturday by nations that supply nuclear material and technology. "I certainly hope we can get it through,'' the top U.S. diplomat told reporters as she travelled from Tunisia to Algeria during a trip to North Africa. It'd be a huge step for the U.S.-India relationship.'' Rice said she would speak in coming days with the leaders of the appropriate congressional committees to see if the deal can be approved by Congress before it breaks for the rest of the year to campaign for November elections. "We understand that time is very short,'' she said. The Nuclear Suppliers Group, which governs the legal world trade in nuclear components and know-how, approved the deal after contentious talks and concessions to countries that feared the pact could set a dangerous precedent. Some opposing countries, including Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, had expressed fears that a reversal of more than three decades of U.S. policy toward India could set a dangerous precedent in the struggle to discourage other nations from pursuing weapons of mass destruction.  Rep. Edward J. Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-chairman of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation, said the Bush administration managed to "strong-arm'' the Nuclear Suppliers Group into skirting normal rules governing international nuclear trade. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said there needs to be clear consequences if India breaks its commitments or resumes nuclear testing. "This agreement effectively blows a hole in the global nonproliferation regime, setting a dangerous precedent. What kind of lesson does it send to countries like Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, when we skirt the rules for our friends, but insist on strict compliance for them?'' Markey asked. "The nuclear supplier nations cannot preach nuclear temperance from a barstool, and the India nuclear deal is going to undermine the credibility of international efforts to prevent the further spread of the bomb.'' "It's no secret that India has been outside the nonproliferation regime for the entire history of its program,'' Rice said. Rice said she had made a lot of calls'' to foreign officials to help win approval. She spoke with China's foreign minister on Saturday, which a senior State Department official said was important in reaching the compromise. "It's been a good week for those negotiations, but we'll just have to see whether it's still possible in Congress,'' Rice said.     A leading and consistent critic of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal has slammed the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for granting a waiver to India in nuclear trade without binding non proliferation commitments. Democratic Congressman Edward Markey of Massachussetts, maintained that the Bush administration strong armed the NSG in "overtime" and that Congress has still the final say on the matter. "In overtime, the Bush Administration managed to strong-arm the NSG into skirting the normal rules governing international nuclear trade. This agreement effectively blows a hole in the global non proliferation regime, setting a dangerous precedent," said Markey.